Sink or Swim Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Bertrand (Mathieu Amalric) has been unable to find a job for two years and is in a protracted depression. He sits on the neck of his wife Claire (Marina Fois), swallows handfuls of antidepressants, spends days on the couch and plays Candy Crush. The older son hates him. The next interview with the personnel officer ends in zilch, and Bertrand completely loses heart. The wealthy family of his wife’s sister does not digest Bertrand, loves to gossip about him and humiliates Bertrand with small handouts.

One day he brings his daughter to the pool and comes across an announcement that a swimmer is required in the men’s synchronized swimming group – an amateur is allowed. The ad is on behalf of a trainer named Delphine (Virginie Efira).

Bertrand himself does not know why he is doing this, but nevertheless he comes to join the group. It consists of six rather heavily battered men. Simpleton Thierry (Philip Catherine) works in the pool, has no girlfriend, no friends. Marcus (Benoît Pulvoord) runs a shop with swimming pools and, with his way of doing business, will soon become bankrupt. Laurent (Guillaume Canet) has relationship problems with his wife and retarded son, and he also has huge problems with his own mother.

Simon (Jean-Hugues Anglade) dreamed of becoming a musician, recorded several discs that were not successful, lives in a trailer and moonlights in the canteen, causing slight fits of contempt in his own daughter. Basil (Elban Ivanov) is just a thirty-eight-year-old loser who does not have his own corner. Well, the Indian Avanish (Balasingham Tamilchelvan) … and the devil knows what problems he has, he hardly speaks French. Yes, and with Dolphin, too, not everything is in order: once she showed great promise in synchronized swimming with her partner, but at some point the partner had to stop swimming, Dolphin’s career was destroyed and she started drinking. And now he trains this group of losers – that’s the whole career.

The group accepts Bertrand into his company, and he quickly discovers that these people, oddly enough, are very close. And they have a rule – do not judge each other. Therefore, they can discuss a lot of things with each other.


Of course, while watching this film, the British The Full Monty is remembered, which in the United Statesn version is called “Male Striptease”. Also, several men who are experiencing serious psychological and financial problems are united in a group to perform male striptease – they have no other option to somehow earn money.

But in “The Unsinkable” (the original title translates as “The Big Swim”), there is a slightly different emphasis. Here people gather in a group not to make money, for them it is a means to somehow get away from the surrounding problems, to switch. In addition, they are very comfortable with each other: there is no need to pretend and pretend to be someone you are not. Some of them are outright losers, others are people with various serious problems, and only in this company can they speak out. Drinking in the sauna after a workout and lighting up joints is an important ritual for them, a kind of club.

After a while, they begin to realize that they really want to achieve something in this synchronized swimming, and not just spend time. At the same time, they begin to try to achieve something in their own lives, where everything turned out so badly and ridiculously.

This picture was directed by the actor and director Gilles Lellouche. We can say that this is his first full-length work, because in the previous three films – “Zero One”, “Glitch” and “Right to Left” – he staged only individual short stories.

Lellouche has long been friends with Guillaume Canet (they played together in ten scenes), Mathieu Amalric (four scenes) and Benoit Pulvoord (four scenes) – they all played here. To complete the picture, only the old friend Gilles Jean Dujardin is missing here, with whom they starred together in “Little Secrets”, “Right to the Left” and “French Transit”, but, however, the handsome Dujardin is somehow not very suitable for the role of a loser .

Mathieu Amalric portrayed a depressed man very well. His wife pities him, his son hates him, and he hates himself. However, classes in a group and conversations with the men from the team gradually change him: he begins to experience some kind of interest in life, he finally expresses to the vile brother-in-law, who constantly humiliates him, everything that he thinks about him.

Guillaume Canet has an interesting role here too. His Laurent is a sociopath. His own mother constantly insults him, he does not have warm feelings for his wife and his own son, he periodically breaks down on the team members, but it is the team that gradually re-educates Laurent.

Benoit Pulvoord is a pure comedian, and of a kind of buffoonish type. It is enough, for example, to recall how he lit up in “Asterix at the Olympic Games” (and famously lit up, the film was mainly on him and kept). I was afraid that here he would noticeably draw attention to himself, but no – the role is very even: Pulvoord did not particularly stick out his character, and when he came to the fore he was quite funny.

Well, I really liked the simpleton Thierry, who was perfectly played by Philippe Catherine. I feel sorry for him most of all: the rest have achieved at least something in this life, and Thierry has remained a big child. But among the members of the team, he made friends, and although they sometimes tease him, they nevertheless support the guy, and his life is also changing for the better.

Good movie. This is not at all a carbon monoxide comedy, as for some reason it was presented at the United Statesn box office, as a result of which many viewers later wrote puzzled reviews with the question “where is there haha?”. This is a tragicomedy, and very well done. The humor here is very mild, Lellouch as a director is quite skillful: he doesn’t pinch anywhere (and with the flabby “Apollos” there was probably a temptation to buffoon), you sympathize with the characters, but no one intentionally presses a tear from the viewer, well, there are some really funny episodes, although and with this, too, do not pinch.

The movie is simple, but “about life”, and about real life, that’s why it’s valuable. I really liked it, and the picture left a very good aftertaste, even straight, maybe I’ll review it again. The picture is very, as they say, moody – Lellouche and the actors managed to create this mood.

In France, the film was a great success; in United States, the attitude towards it is rather polar. Those spectators who went to the “carbon monoxide” were very disappointed, and those who understood what they were going for, as far as I read, liked the picture, just like me. As critic Valery Kichin wrote in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the picture does not cause any depression, but quite the opposite – it says that you always need to strive for something and achieve something, this is what can change you for the better.

PS I listened to the dubbing – it seems to be quite decently done. And Tieri’s manner of speaking was correctly conveyed, and Amalrik was voiced quite authentically, and Pulvoord’s voice was well chosen. So dubbing the picture should not spoil.


Sink or Swim / Le grand bain movie meaning

Director: Gilles Lellouche Cast: Benoit Poulvoord, Guillaume Canet, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Mathieu Amalric, Marina Fois, Elban Ivanov, Virginie Efira, Leila Behti, Philippe Catherine, Felix Moati, Balasingham Tamilchelvan


Tragicomedy, France, 2018, 122 min.

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