“A way to combat the feeling of meaninglessness” is how one Swede describes the allure of synchronized swimming in Men Who Swim, Welsh director Dylan Williams’ documentary on the Stockholm Art Swim Gents. While that might sound a little funny to American audiences (especially when spoken in, you know, Swedish), it’s the through-line in an excellent film that’s less concerned with tales of underdog triumph than it is with how to hit 40 without growing bitter. Williams, friendless in Scandinavia after leaving his home to marry a nice Swedish girl, works hard to learn the language but doesn’t have any mates until joining the Gents. Among them, he meets Lars and Pontus and that rascal Henrik, who drinks whiskey in the shower after practice; each man, in turn, seeks his own rejuvenation underwater. The arguments over wet suits and preponderance of aquatic grundle shots aside, the story isn’t played for laughs, which is why the humor works—and if its pace occasionally flags during overlong sequences of the boys getting their sea legs (they’re wretched at first, and their female trainer calls them “pussies”), the irresistible dynamic among the teammates will see you through. Toward the end, the Gents hear of the synchro world championship in Milan and finally encounter the fearsome Japanese team, as well as the Dutch—reigning world champs who intimidate all comers with their shaved legs. Here you might expect a sports-movie cliché. Instead, you simply get a gorgeously shot sequence of the Swedish team’s routine. And you might be as surprised by their progress as you are that a film about paunchy males struggling to learn moves like Slap the Pony and the Stork’s Leg can put a lump in your throat.
At 3:45 p.m. at the Discovery HD Theater; also on Sunday, June 27, at AFI Silver Theater 2.