Swimming Upstream—MGM/UA

Video: 4
Audio: 4
Extras: 2

Swimming Upstream tells the true story of Australian swimmer Tony Fingleton, who must overcome poverty and a cruel, alcoholic father in his quest to become the best swimmer in Australia. The story is one we've seen many times in different incarnations. The difference here is that, because Fingleton penned the screenplay and the book on which it's based, events aren't always as tidy and pat as Hollywood would like them to be. We don't get the big ending we're expecting, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Unfortunately, the film lacks a firm identity. One moment, it feels like a small, character-driven drama. The next, it's being edited and scored as if it were a stylish, big-budget event picture. Its anchor is the excellent performances by Jesse Spencer as Tony and Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis as his parents. They'll keep you engrossed from start to finish.

The DVD's audio and video run neck and neck in the quality department. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is rich and clear up front, while making effective use of the surrounds during the races. The 1.85:1 anamorphic picture offers natural colors and good detail.

Bringing up the rear is the extras package, which includes some deleted scenes and a short, forgettable making-of. A commentary track by Fingleton would've been a welcome addition. I mean, the guy took the time to write a book and then a screenplay. Can't he spare another hour and 37 minutes to flesh out his own life story for a willing audience?