Directed by Frank Perry & Sydney Pollack
Running time: 91 minutes
Based on a short story by John Cheever, the eloquent voice of suburban malaise, Frank Perry's The Swimmer is a quiet masterpiece. Dressed only in swimming trunks throughout, it stars the 55 year-old Burt Lancaster as Neddy Merrill and traces the story of his mysterious downfall, through the reflected mirror of others. Merrill, a wealthy middle-aged advertising executive, has been away for most of the summer, but turns up at a friend's pool in his well-heeled corner of Connecticut. After someone points out that the valley is full of swimming pools, he decides to swim home, travelling from house to house via each beautiful, manicured estate. As he does so, he meets neighbours and characters from his past along the way, but slowly, their reactions to his actions makes us realise he is on an entirely different path – one that is balanced on the edge of a mysterious psychosis that we never fully comprehend. With each rejection, Lancaster grows more and more disillusioned with his perfect lifestyle until, after a painful confrontation with his ex-mistress Janice Rule, he makes his way home, thoroughly defeated, through the Connecticut woods. Partly a showcase for the physical prowess of its main actor, it is nonetheless a portrait of loss, memory and deep-rooted emotional denial. Surreal and beguiling, The Swimmer is a simple allegory of the emptiness of the American dream. Emerging from the same ground-breaking mould as other 60s literary films such as The Graduate, it was dismissed as too self-consciously 'arty' at the time of its release but has since gathered recognition, thanks in part to frequent late-night TV exposure, as an undiscovered classic.
Reservation is not necessary, but places are limited. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment.