Touch the Wall

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Touch the Wall Movie Poster Image
Strong female role models in Olympic swimming docu.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 101 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

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

Positive Messages

Themes include endurance and persistence in training and competing, as well as good sportsmanship and teamwork.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Skilled athletes exhibit excellent teamwork. Missy Franklin refuses to cash in on million-dollar endorsement deals and continues to compete on her high school team while qualifying as an Olympic athlete. She refuses to disparage or leave behind her teammates, even when they don't perform quite as well. She even picks up the trash after a meet.


A swimmer has a meltdown and argues with her coach.


Athletic men and women shown in bathing suits or yoga pants. Kara briefly lowers her pants to show some tape on injured hips. Two characters are in a relationship (and eventually marry).


A use of "s--t," plus "crap," "damn," and "Christ" (as an exclamation).


Various sponsors shown at Olympic games. Speedo swimming gear. Starbucks coffee glimpsed.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer is mentioned.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Touch the Wall is a documentary that follows two Olympic swimmers -- veteran silver medalist Kara Lynn Joyce and teen newcomer Missy Franklin -- as they attempt to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London. One swimmer has a couple of meltdowns and an argument; "s--t" is heard twice, as are a few other minor words. Sex isn't an issue, with the exception of athletic men and women shown in bathing suits. The women, especially Franklin, are portrayed as highly admirable role models who demonstrate excellent sportsmanship, teamwork, and humanism. Despite brief iffy material, this is an inspiring choice for tweens, especially girls.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bylquilter December 29, 2018

inspirational girls/women in sports (swimming) movie

Following two young women (one in high school, one 25yo) on different trajectories, both trying to get to the Olympics in swimming. Showed overcoming adversity,... Continue reading
Adult Written byBrookeCH July 19, 2015

Inspiring and disappointing

The movie starts out with swimmers getting Olympic tattoos and ends with them getting tattoos. There is inappropriate language that could easily have been left... Continue reading

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What's the story?

In the two years leading up to the 2012 Olympics in London, two swimmers step up their training in TOUCH THE WALL. Kara Lynn Joyce is in her mid-20s and hopes to compete in her third Games. She received two silver medals in Athens, in 2004, and two more silver medals in Beijing, in 2008. She decides to relocate to Aurora, Colorado, where she'll train with coach Todd Schmitz, alongside a very promising teen Olympic hopeful, Missy Franklin. Joyce and Franklin become fast friends as Franklin's career takes off. But as she's winning competitions and breaking records, Joyce finds it increasingly difficult to push her body as hard as she did in her teens. At the Olympics, the friends must swim as fast as they can without losing sight of what's really important.

Is it any good?

This movie plays a little bit like one of those official Olympic documentaries, where everything seems a bit too scrubbed clean, but it doesn't resort to artificial drama. Both Joyce and Franklin come across as totally ordinary folks. "I'm not famous!" says Franklin incredulously to an interviewer. "I've just had some media attention." Joyce has it the roughest here, 10 years older than Franklin and struggling with her physical limitations.

Joyce has a couple of meltdowns on camera, but they seem born of frustration rather than any kind of diva complex. Scenes with her boyfriend make her even more normal and sympathetic. And Franklin comes across as a bona fide hero, turning down multimillion-dollar endorsement deals, continuing to compete with her high school team, and showing generosity and good cheer at every moment. In the end, Touch the Wall gives a good name to these two Olympians, if not Olympians everywhere.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether Missy Franklin is a role model. How does she behave toward others in Touch the Wall? What does she give up?

  • What about Kara Lynn Joyce? What does she give up? What has she learned over the course of her Olympic career?

  • Do the swimmers present an realistic body image for girls?

  • The two featured women manage to keep up their friendship even though one has achieved far greater success than the other. Have you ever been in that situation? Was there jealousy, or was everything OK?

  • How does Touch the Wall promote teamwork? Why is this an important character strength?

Movie details

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