His own dreams of glory on the soccer field lost to marrying young, the Great Depression and rivers of alcohol, a father pushes his sons to achieve athletically in Australia in the 1950s and early'60s. Two of the boys are skilled swimmers and he pits them against each other, never bothering to conceal his favoritism for the younger. It is the story of the rejected son (played by Spencer, a promising hunk) that is at the center of this engrossing drama, based on the boyhood of screenwriter Anthony Fingleton, who won the Australian backstroke championship in 1961 and '63.
As directed by Russell Mulcahy (Highlander), Swimming Upstream does an excellent job of conveying a specific sense of time and place and a son's difficult journey to understanding and forgiveness. Rush, as the abusive father, and Davis, as his long-suffering wife, both give superb performances. (PG-13)