REVIEW

Streamline on Stan stars Levi Miller as a troubled swimmer

Streamline. M, 86 minutes, Four stars

In this new Australian feature film hitting streaming service Stan, life in the pool is everything for 15-year-old talented swimmer Benjamin "Boy" Lane.

There's not much going on in his sleepy North Queensland town, but for Boy there is barely a spare moment from the time the alarm goes off at 4am for morning swim training.

His life is planned out for him by his hard-working single mum Kim (Laura Gordon) and coach (Robert Morgan).

Boy is focused in the pool.

He is a little distracted by his girlfriend Patti (Tasia Zalar), a little miserable as a social outcast at school, but on track for a promising career in swimming with an upcoming visit from an Institute of Sport talent spotter (Steve Bastoni).

But careful planning and hard work mean nothing when Boy's father Rob (Jason Isaacs) is released from prison and moves back to the town.

He is hoping to make amends and find a reconnection with Boy and his two older brothers, Dave (Jake Ryan) and Nick (Sam Parsonson).

When Rob approaches Boy at an important competition, Boy is thrown.

He loses his race and it kicks off a downward spiral of acting out and bad behaviour as memories of his father's violent past upset years of hard work.

This is an impressive feature film debut for writer-director Tyson Wade Johnston.

It's one of the better sports-focused features in recent years, thanks in part to the authenticity lent it by the film's executive producer, Ian Thorpe, who won five gold medals swimming in the Olympics as well as three silver and one bronze.

Levi Miller in Streamline. Picture: Stan

Levi Miller in Streamline. Picture: Stan

Thorpe even makes a brief cameo over the closing credits as a sports commentator interviewing Boy, and he is referenced in the screenplay.

You couldn't imagine a film on this subject not sitting in the shadow of Thorpe's great achievements in the pool.

What the screenplay ponders isn't what makes a champion like Thorpe.

Rather, it considers what kept a teenage Thorpe and what keeps any young person pursuing a craft focused and continuing to wake up at 4am and endure.

There are so many distractions, so many thoughts and hormones racing though those teenage bodies, whispering like little devils into ears to self-destruct and to throw it all in.

It has been a delight watching Miller mature onscreen from his juvenile roles as Peter Pan in Pan and Red Dog: True Blue (where Miller and Isaacs played the younger and elder versions of the lead character, Michael "Mick" Carter).

Miller has put in hard work in the pool to give Benjamin a swimmer's physicality.

He is believably taut from endless laps, with bruises from cupping treatments meant to stimulate bloodflow - they're actually quite menacing to look at.

In fact, there is a menacing undertone to this film and it isn't coming from the obvious violence bubbling away in the souls of Rob and the boys he raised under the fist and the belt.

For me, it is the assault of screaming intensity from Morgan's coach.

There is a certain coaching style that isn't for everyone, an intimidating army- sergeant approach that this washed-up former swimmer felt completely triggered by.

The performances in this film are exceptional - Isaacs' restraint, Miller's unfocused fear, Ryan's brooding passion.

Director Johnson has cast his film well, but also pulls the camera back and gives his performers the room to fill the screen.

It is a hard balancing act for Miller.

Long-distance swimming pulls you inside your own head, and he has to communicate the turbulent waters this confused teen is navigating through a bare minimum of dialogue.

But doing the lion's share of work is mum.

Gordon carries the film with the most developed character and one whose motivation is a little more relatable than a bunch of blokes swallowing their feelings.

The pool-set scenes are electric, perhaps because of the coaching of Thorpe helping cast and crew to understand the dynamics at work.

You can positively smell the chlorine coming off the screen.

This story Pool drama dives into deep issues first appeared on The Canberra Times.