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The Sun News

"...immensely satisfying."
Three Stars
By Mike Morgan

If labels are necessary, Robert J. Siegel’s lovely movie "Swimming" comes closest to being a "coming of age" film, hilarious, somber, reflective, self-conscious and, ultimately, immensely satisfying.

Lauren Ambrose plays Frankie, a young woman living in Myrtle Beach with her brother and his family, struggling to make a living from the Ocean Boulevard restaurant their parents gave them.

Unsure of what she wants from life but certain she won’t find it here, Frankie longs for a car to take her away and for someone to show her how to find the strength to leave.

She loves her family but finds little of interest in their domestic life. Her friends- Nicola, who runs a piercing shop next door to the restaurant, and Brad, a lifeguard, with whom she grew up- do not understand Frankie’s restlessness and offer no solutions. What Frankie wants is something, anything to happen, to elevate her hopes above the short-order counter, to show her a world lit by something brighter than bubble lights and neon.

What she wants is what we all wanted when we were young: to leave the farm.

When she meets Brad’s girlfriend Josee and a drifter named Heath, Frankie believes she may have found an exit from the white, even haze of another summer by the shore.

There are conflicts: Nicola (played with beautiful passion and a grand sense of childish self-absorption by Jennifer Dundas Lowe) is jealous of Frankie’s deepening interest in Josee. The restaurant is losing money. And Josee, beautiful and supremely self-confident, recognizes Frankie’s wordless yearning and responds with an enigmatic touch and secret, gentle kisses.

Siegel, working from a deft and insightful script by Lisa Bazadona, crafts an absorbing story with a dense sense of place. The Ocean Boulevard he depicts is mostly dead-on, full of hedonistic exploits and a resigned acceptance of oddity (keep an eye out for the character "Ted"). And the portrayal of life in a resort town for its year-round denizens, both bored and thrilled with the prospect of another perfect summer, is intelligent and knowing.

But Siegel and company score highest with their explorations of another aspect of life in a tourist town, the difference between a life of substance and fair- weather joy. Ambrose embodies the search for the former, her face and voice conveying the tensions between the two with remarkable poise and maturity.

Joelle Carter is startling as Josee, the seductress who slides from caring to callous with a frightening ease. And Jamie Harrold, as Heath, is quite fine as the latter-day Everyman, the good guy for whom wisdom is as natural as the surf and sand.

"Swimming" is a quiet film more interested in character than plot. But daily life can be as mesmerizing as the predictable tide, for those willing to immerse themselves in it.

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