By Stefan Pape,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Inspiring true refugee story has sexual violence and peril.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The film shines a light on society's lack of compassion when it comes to refugees. But it shows what refugees can bring to other nations, and how they can succeed in the face of adversity and up against the odds. A story full of hope and inspiration, in the unlikeliest of places.
Positive Role Models
Sarah and Yusra are inspirational in how they follow their dreams and succeed in a world designed to watch them fail. They are courageous, hardworking, and talented. A number of characters display xenophobic and prejudice behavior. But this is primarily a story of hope, led by two incredible young women.
This is a story of the under-represented. Refugees from different countries are well-developed (as opposed to mere statistics), with real stories to tell. Their plight, and the dangers, sexism, and xenophobia characters encounter are highlighted. The central, leading characters are both Syrian women (played by real-life sisters who are French Lebanese) and the director is a woman of Egyptian heritage.
Inclusion information: Middle Eastern/North African directors, Middle Eastern/North African actors, Middle Eastern/North African writers
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Violence & Scariness
Every step of the refugees' journey to safety is a dangerous one. There is one scene when a boat is sinking, with several lives at threat. There is an attempted rape, which turns into a fight between the victim and perpetrators. In Syria, bombs are heard going off in the background. Reference to people dying. Soldiers are shown groping a young woman. Snipers proceed to shoot at a bus full of innocent civilians.
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Some use of "s--t," "bitch," and "ass."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters are seen drinking alcohol at a party. People smoke from hookah pipes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Swimmers is a truly inspiring story -- based on real events -- about two refugee sisters, with scenes involving peril and sexual violence. Giving a voice to the under-represented, Yusra (Nathalie Issa) and Sarah Mardini (Manal Issa) are two sisters who flee the war in Syria for Europe. Defying the odds, the sisters are inspirational as they follow their dreams of becoming swimmers, and show great courage in the process. The film highlights some of the dangers refugees face, showing how people risk everything just to live a safer existence. There is one scene in particular, set on a dinghy, that is especially upsetting to watch as several characters' lives are threatened. The violence in the film extends to an attempted rape and a soldier groping a young woman. In Syria we see bombs going off, and snipers shooting at vehicles. There is occasional bad language and characters are seeing smoking shisha from a hookah pipe.
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What's the Story?
THE SWIMMERS is the incredible true story of Yusra (Nathalie Issa) and Sarah Mardini (Manal Issa) who flee war-torn Syria for safety in Europe. The pair share a passion for swimming, with the former, in particular, incredibly talented and competitive, hoping to win a place at the forthcoming Olympic Games in Rio. Their dangerous journey takes them to Germany, where they encounter coach Sven (Matthias Schweighöfer) who believes Yusra's dream could become a reality.
Is It Any Good?
This biographical drama blends pertinent, powerful themes, with the archetypal sports movie formula. In what is her first directorial feature in a decade, Sally El Hosaini co-wrote The Swimmers with esteemed writer Jack Thorne. What transpires is a film that has a lot to say but remains committed to its entertainment value. It is inspiring and full of hope, all the while remaining devastating and moving.
There are some fine performances but a special mention must go to newcomer Nathalie Issa, in her first role. Her real-life sister Manal -- who already had an extensive list of film credits to her name -- merely suggested her younger sister could play her on-screen sibling. Without any experience, the youngster came on board and has turned in a stirring, accomplished performance. This won't be the last we see of her. On that note, let's hope El Hosaini doesn't wait another decade for her next one either.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how refugees are portrayed in The Swimmers. What are some reasons people make these often dangerous journeys? Are you a refugee, or do you know any refugees? How did Yusra and Sarah's experience compare?
Did you find any particular scenes difficult to watch? How would you compare the violence and peril in the film to what you would see in an action/thriller movie? Which has more impact? Why?
What character strengths did the sisters display? Why are these such important traits to have? Can you think of a time when you've shown these traits?
In what ways did Sven make for a great swimming coach for Yusra? Do you have any coaches, or teachers, that have inspired you?
- In theaters: November 11, 2022
- On DVD or streaming: November 23, 2022
- Cast: Manal Issa, Nathalie Issa, Matthias Schweighöfer
- Director: Sally El Hosaini
- Inclusion Information: Middle Eastern/North African directors, Middle Eastern/North African actors, Middle Eastern/North African writers
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Brothers and Sisters, Great Girl Role Models
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 134 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic material, some violence including sexual assault, and language
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: February 17, 2023
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