Swimming Upstream (2003)

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Released 26-Aug-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Trailer-Almost Famous, Centre Stage, Erin Brockovich
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 96:48
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Russel Mulcahy
Crusader Entertainme
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Jesse Spencer
Geoffrey Rush
Judy Davis
Tim Draxl
David Hoflin
Craig Horner
Brittany Byrnes
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Reinhold Heil
Johnny Klimek

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, very minor
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Swimming Upstream is a top quality biopic. It traces the true story of the Australian Fingleton family, growing up in Brisbane during the 1950s and 1960s. It is highly evocative of the period and rapidly draws you into a wonderfully scripted and excellently acted tale. Whilst I did not live in Australia during this period, the "blokes only" bars, the militant wharfies, the cars, the homes and the costumes all seem to perfectly recreate the Australia of the day. This is certainly one of the very best Australian films I have seen in recent years.

    Jesse Spencer plays Tony Fingleton, one of five children to Harold (the native Queenslander Geoffrey Rush) and Dora (Judy Davis). The family are not wealthy, but the children are very close and their early childhood looks almost idyllic. The kids spend much of their time at the municipal pool, in an attempt to escape the balmy heat of the Queensland summer. The two middle brothers, Tony and John (well played by Tim Draxl), have a particularly close bond of friendship as well as brotherhood. The eldest brother, Harold Jr. (David Hoflin) is the apple of his father's eye - tough, sporty and destined to become a carbon copy of his dad.

    The story follows Tony and John's rise through the ranks of swimming fame, coached by their almost tyrannical father. No matter how hard Tony tries, he can never gain the love of his father, and is always overshadowed by the loutish Harold Jr. or by John. Tony is protected by his mother, who appreciates his piano-playing and more genteel nature. This bond sustains Tony as his father turns John into his arch-rival in the pool and determines to have John emerge as a national champion swimmer. As the father becomes more abusive to Tony and his mother, the need for Tony to forge his own path through life becomes ever more pressing.

    Jesse Spencer is a genuinely talented actor. His performance in this movie is heartfelt and utterly believable at every turn (no pun intended). He has the opportunity to display a real depth of character and emotion in this film (unlike his earlier work in Neighbours), and he makes the most of those opportunities. I will be keeping an eye out for his future roles, as I am sure he has more on tap. He is joined by a great Australian cast featuring Judy Davis in a wonderful performance as his tortured, yet loving, mother and an immensely powerful portrayal of a sadistic, yet sad, alcoholic father by Rush.

    Swimming Upstream is a very good film. I must admit that I am a bit of a sucker for these "doing it hard in the old days" stories, and this is a genuine tale of a genuine family with two remarkable sons. Whilst not as emotional as Angela's Ashes (yes, I loved this too - maybe it's my "fenimen" side?) this film packs a genuine emotional punch. The cinematography is excellent, and the use of various split-screen effects (which in some movies can feel contrived), seemed to suit the film very well indeed. The competition scenes were not overly long and did manage to generate some real interest in this non sports-fan. A very solid, well made and enjoyable Australian film.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality of this transfer is very good, with no major flaws and a wonderfully evocative period feel.

    The film is presented in the (assumed) original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. This video transfer is satisfyingly sharp. There is some very minor grain present throughout but this may have been deliberately added to provide a period feel, and it is never distracting.

    Colours are warm, fully saturated and feel very natural. There is a real depth and clarity to this transfer, with skin tones looking very natural, and some of the pool scenes providing startlingly clear blues. There is no sign of colour bleeding, and black levels are deep and solid with no low level noise and good shadow detail.

    The transfer is generally free from MPEG artefacts, however there are a couple of instances of fleeting (but noticeable) macro-blocking during the film (for example during the photo-finish at 52:38), where the picture breaks up quite noticeably. There is no aliasing or shimmer present. Edge enhancement was not readily apparent and telecine wobble is not evident.

    The transfer is relatively free from scratches but there are a very few minor white specks which crop up fleetingly.

    I sampled the English (for the Hearing Impaired) subtitles and found them to be legible, well timed and very close to the on-screen dialogue at all times.

    This is a single sided, single layered (DVD 5) disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The overall audio transfer is clean, clear and and very natural.

    The English audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at a full bitrate 448 kbps.

    The soundtrack is very clear and is without any noticeable flaws. There are no clicks, pops or hiss even during the quieter periods. The gurgling of the water as the cameras switch to an underwater perspective is well executed. Dialogue is always clear and I noticed no issues with audio sync. The overall volume of the feature seemed a tad low however, and I found I had to listen above my normal level to hear the soundtrack clearly.

    The musical score was credited to Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek who appear to have mainly contributed to German television, but would be known to some for their collaboration on One Hour Photo. The score is generally unobtrusive, but provides a sweeping orchestral accompaniment to the more poignant scenes, and a slightly more driving presence during the racing meets.

    As might be expected for such a piece the soundstage is predominantly frontal. There is some good separation across the front soundstage however, and the dialogue is always appropriately anchored. The surrounds are subtly used to carry the musical score and to provide some minor ambient effects such as splashing in the pool scenes.

    The subwoofer gets some very gentle exercise to support the limited bass effects in the score. Whilst it is generally understated, it is appropriately used, given the (character driven) nature of the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are minimal extras on this DVD.


    The menu consists of an alluring shot of a swimming pool, accompanied by the orchestral soundtrack. It allows you to either play the movie, jump to one of thirty chapter stops or play a selection of trailers.


    There are three trailers presented on this disc. They are as follows:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This DVD does not appear to be available in Region 1 or Region 2 (I believe the film has not yet secured a USA release). Region 4 would appear to be your only choice to purchase this movie.


    Swimming Upstream is a well directed, well scripted, and wonderfully acted Australian movie. This DVD presents the film with a great video transfer and a very good soundtrack. The extras are negligible, but the sheer quality of the story and the acting in the main feature make this a disc which I highly recommend.

    The video quality is good. It is colourful and clean throughout.

    The audio transfer is good and is free from any significant defects.

    There are minimal extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Saturday, August 02, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDHarmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
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