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The Village Voice

"A being of age film in the tradition of Ruby in Paradise"
September 11, 2002
Laura Sinagra

Swimming is a being-of-age story in the measured tradition of 1993's Ruby in Paradise, sporting a similarly reserved breakthrough lead performance. Before Ashley Judd was a Ya Ya Sister she was, of course, Ruby; and before Lauren Ambrose was a Six Feet Under firestarter, she was Myrtle Beach's forgotten girl, Frankie. Just as Ruby left the inland sticks to work retail by the seaside, Frankie, raised on the beach and working with her gruff brother in their retired parents' restaurant, wonders about heading the other direction. She avoids the water, which symbolizes both suffocation and change. Surrounded by bikinis and neon, she opts for striped breakaways and ravey sag. Knocking around with her pierced-up pal Nicola (Jennifer Dundas Lowe) is as metronomic as the everyday wave action. That is, until two catalysts arrive. Sexy Josee (Joelle Carter), the new waitress, takes a shine to Frankie, and the ensuing frisson brings sweet, lolling excitement.

Their kiss-play languor changes shape with the arrival of a princely slacker (Jamie Harrold), who also has a thing for Frankie, though it's never really clear what that thing is. But that's the pleasure of this script, underthought in the best sense. As relationships shift, director Robert J. Siegel allows the characters to inhabit their world without cleaving to a narrative arc. It's a luxurious hangout; spaces burgeon with goofy love and generous confusion. Like Ruby, Frankie is an old soul, a listener, a watcher, protective of her personal space. She's no wide-eyed naïf, but a woman who understands the charisma of quietude, just barely aware of her considerable power, sexual and otherwise. She lets the world project its wishes onto her until provoked to risk expression. And with Ambrose, that expression is always luminous—caught in a 400 Blows freeze when the camera leaves her to her future.

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