A gifted young swimmer destined for the Olympic Games has his training and life turned upside down when his abusive father is released from prison.
Given Australia’s love affair with sport I am surprised that over the years Australian filmmakers haven’t made more ‘great’ sports films. Of course there have been some stand-outs, The Club and September, spring to mind but largely when Aussies have tackled the sports genre the films have had a bad soapy feel to them, for examples take another look at The Cup or Ride Like A Girl.
Directed by first time feature film director Tyson Wade Johnson and produced by Australian swimming legend Ian Thorpe I feel that this is one of the first gritty sports films that we have seen in Australian for a long time. How gritty? Well I would have to say that this film is almost on par with The Wrestler.
Benjamin Lane (Levi Miller – Pan) is a gifted young swimmer, actually he is more than just gifted his Coach (Robert Morgan – Hacksaw Ridge) feels that he has what it takes to become an Olympic champion. And life is going pretty well for him as well, he is getting good grades at school, his girlfriend Patti (Tasia Zalar – Mystery Road) is deeply devoted to him and his mother, Kim (Laura Gordon – Undertow) is willing to make any sacrifice necessary to see her son become a champion.
But then everything starts to fall apart when his abusive father, Rob (Jason Isaacs – Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets), is released from prison. Benjamin’s life begins to spiral when Rob reaches out him and soon he finds himself drawn to the ‘loser’ lifestyle of drinking and partying that his two brothers, Dave (Jake Ryan – The Great Gatsby) and Nick (Sam Parsonson – Hacksaw Ridge), have chosen to live.
My first thought while watching Streamline was that this is a sports film that is nothing like anything that we have ever made here before. For once this is a sports film that goes behind the glory of the sport itself and shows the personal side of the person competing. Often with Australian sports films I find that the film wants to glorify the victories but quickly skip past the mental and physical demons that the star themselves may have had to overcome to get there. Films like The Cup and Ride Like A Girl are great examples – both the stars depicted in those films overcome a lot to get where they needed to be but a lot of the ‘hard times’ were shown in montages etc whereas Streamline hones in on those ‘hard times’ and makes them the centre piece of the film.
The result is a film that draws you in and makes you feel the pain and anguish that Benjamin is going through. To the credit of Johnson’s screenplay he doesn’t hold anything back from his audience no matter how dark it is. He steers away from Hollywood clichés, there are no inspirational chats by girlfriend or coach as Benjamin begins to throw his career away, instead it is the more natural ‘you’re a dickhead’ and anger and resentment towards him.
The result of the power and tension that Johnson creates throughout this film is a movie that even non-sports fans are going to find themselves compelled to. Films like Varsity Blues have tried to go down this road in the past but they have held back from going completely into the dark – Streamline does not.
I couldn’t help but also feel blown away by the acting performances here in the film. I think most film lovers already know that Levi Miller is going to become a star and his performance here just cements that. Let’s be honest if this film was American people would already be starting to say that there is an Oscar whisper around his performance.
Backing up Miller is an emotional performance by Laura Gordon, who I feel is one of the most under-rated character actresses in this country, and some true brilliance from Jake Ryan whose character Dave is the devil on Benjamin’s shoulder telling him to throw everything away.
Streamline is an amazing piece of Australian cinema. I feel it shows the industry how a sports film should be made and it is a film not be missed even just for the once in a lifetime performance by Levi Miller.