It’s hard to describe the atmosphere of the Cannes Film Festival. The vibe is decidedly high energy with crowds amassing before every screening. You learn very quickly which line will accommodate you. 

Placards announce specific areas, and there’s a well-defined hierarchy. A yellow press pass will get you a balcony seat in the Grand Theatre Lumiere screening of a competition film if you line up an hour ahead of time. If it’s one of the evening screenings, crowds of adoring fans will be on hand to catch a glimpse of the film’s actors and crew. Dressed to the nines while the rest of us are wearing comfortable shoes, some of the stars take it all in stride, while some of them look a little star-struck themselves. 

To all this man-made glamour, add the stunning setting of the French Riviera, picture postcard beautiful with palm trees waving in the breeze against a backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea. The yachts in the harbor remind me that some of the cliches are based on fact. 

In addition to the big competition films, you can also catch special world premiers of films that will be released in he US sometime in the near future. I’ve been here a day and a half, and in an hour or so, I’ll be standing in a long line for movie number five. Of the four I’ve seen so far, two were in French, one in Polish, and one in English. Subtitles are helpful. 

With a promised late fall release, the poster of the French film “Sink or Swim” caught my attention. Complete with swim caps and Euro-tiny swim suits, a group of middle-aged men line the side of a pool. They’re an unlikely group; some have fit physiques; others show signs of too much beer or a penchant for late-night sweets. Not only did my line waiting and timing both fall into place, but I also landed entrance into the press conference that followed the screening. Seeing them right there in the flesh after you’ve watched them on the big screen produces a little thrill, even if it does take only a minute or two to realize they’re human just like the rest of us. Most of the questions were about the synchronized swim sequences. Everybody really did learn all the moves and spent many, many hours in the pool. 

“Sink or Swim” relates the story of a group of ordinary middle-aged men, each one with a particular problem. From impending divorce to bankruptcy to depression, each and every one has a cross to bear. Then hope comes from an unlikely source when they’re recruited by swim coach Delphine (Virginie Efira) to form a men’s synchronized swim team. As unlikely as it seems, the gang melds as the time for world competition draws close. 

Much of the film’s energy comes through each individual’s struggle. Laurent (Guillaume Canet) has intense anger issues. Before he joined the team, Bertrand (Matthieu Amalric) spent his days in a depressed stupor napping on his couch and playing CandyCrush. Thibault (Jonathan Zaccai) can hold his breath longer than anybody, an art he perfected working in a rest home where the all the occupants had an unpleasant odor. The lead up to the world competition becomes complicated when their coach is replaced with Amanda (Leila Bekhti), who, unlike the affable Delphine, expects dedication and discipline. 

Male bonding occurs in leaps and bounds as the guys perfect their graceful moves and expand their swimming skills. The force of the film lies in the dynamic changes brought about by learning to swim in sync, tapping into their feminine sides, and coming to understand that as long as you have a friend to share your problems with, anything is possible. 

“Sink or Swim” won’t make a big splash, but it may run in Dallas this fall. Catch if you can. The world of men’s synchronized swimming has never looked brighter. 

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Marilyn Robitaille attended the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France.