Against the Tides

Movie review by
Kat Halstead, Common Sense Media
Against the Tides Movie Poster Image
British sports docu has mild peril, some strong language.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 87 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The importance of following your dreams, but also that the needs of others may ultimately take priority over personal accomplishment. Perseverance and courage are displayed.

Positive Role Models

Beth French is strong, dedicated, and determined to overcome obstacles. But her single-mindedness also makes her behave arrogantly and selfishly at times. Her young autistic son, Dylan, is supportive and proud at first, but later admits he is frightened and unhappy about the swimming challenge. Members of the support crew are seen to be dedicated and willing to put their own lives on hold to be involved in the project.


There are moments of peril when a character suffers from exhaustion and there are shark sightings while they are in the water. Reference is made to jellyfish, menstruation potentially attracting sharks, and the risk of hypothermia and death. Childhood illness and being temporarily confined to a wheelchair are also discussed.


Occasional language includes the word "f--k," "bollocks," and "God" used as an exclamation.


Reference is made to confectionary brands including Milky Way and 3 Musketeers. PowerBar sports bottles are frequently shown on screen.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There is mention of painkillers and nutrition powders and drinks.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Against the Tides is a British sports documentary about a woman's attempt to set a world record for an extreme swimming challenge, with some moments of peril and language. Following Beth French's journey, the film includes footage of her in dangerous waters, including shark sightings, and shows her exhausted and physically sick at times. There is also occasional language including the use of "f--k." A number of confectionary and sports drinks brands are clearly identifiable. French shows great courage and perseverance, having overcome childhood illness and now testing her body to the limits. However, the documentary also highlights the affects her behavior and decisions have on her immediate support team, as well as her autistic son Dylan and extended family. There are moments of great achievement and celebration, as well as dangerous times and emotional difficulties, which may not be suitable for younger viewers.

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What's the story?

In AGAINST THE TIDES, Beth French overcomes childhood illness to test her body as an adult in the Oceans Seven extreme swimming challenge. She pulls together a team of supporters and travels to some of the most dangerous waters in the world in an attempt to set a record as the first person to complete the challenge within a year. While the swims themselves are physically and emotionally grueling, it is the challenges she faces out of the water that will eventually change the coarse of her future.

Is it any good?

Night photography and underwater shots are atmospheric and haunting, yet this documentary lacks the drama that might have kept it on track as events unfold. It is unsurprising that Against the Tides feels incomplete given the unexpected direction it takes, suggesting French's decisions leave the documentary crew as high and dry as her support team.

Rooting for French becomes increasingly difficult -- her initial claim that she is attempting the challenge for her son, Dylan, never quite ringing true. Moments of difficulty, where Dylan is upset and untethered on their travels, are always framed in terms of their affect on French, with any empathy dimmed by the overriding sense that she could do without it the night before a swim. The single-mindedness that made her so successful and potentially inspiring going into the challenge translates into selfishness as the documentary goes on, leaving the audience feeling as cheated as those around her as it draws to a close.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the difficulties faced in Against the Tides. What challenges does Beth have to overcome, both within the water and on dry land? How well does she deal with them? What character strengths does she demonstrate?

  • Who helps Beth during her challenges and how do they show their support in different ways?

  • Talk about the language used in the documentary. Did it seem necessary or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?

  • Can you think of other sports documentaries where an individual takes on a challenge? How do they compare?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sports

Themes & Topics

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