Review: Against the Tides
Digital: Against the Tides (2019)
Beth French is a British single mum who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, while also having to look after her autistic young son.
Her whole life she has found comfort while swimming, and so takes up the challenge to become the first person to ever complete the ‘Oceans Seven‘ in a 12 month period.
Raising funds via a variety of events, and hiring people as her support team to back her up during this worldwide marathon, Beth and her son Dylan are followed by director Stefan Stuckert and his crew as they travel across the globe.
The main tension with any documentary about a person trying to complete a certain set of challenges is always “will they do it“?
So if you don’t want to know anything else, then stop reading here.
Despite her medical condition and the stresses and strains that come with being a single parent, especially one with a child who has autism, Beth seems to have trained herself physically to cope with the rough and unforgiving open waters that await her.
Physical strength is just one part of the equation though when confronting something that seems insurmountable, as mental strength and preparation is just as important…and it is here that Beth is unprepared.
Bad weather scuppers what would have been her 1st swim from Scotland to Ireland, but moving on to subsequent swims in New Zealand, Hawaii, England and America, her swimming becomes stronger and the possibility of her completing the challenge starts to become a reality.
However, it is not her swimming ability that is the problem with attaining her goal, it is her bond with Dylan that is slowly draining her, and partway through a swim in Japan she gives up, stating that she has lost her focus on why she wants to complete the challenge, especially as it is taking time away from her and Dylan.
This is of course where all tension is lost, the filmmakers have to construct an ending, and her support team (some of whom gave up their jobs to support Beth on this 12 month journey) start to think they should have stayed at home.
While it is commendable that Beth wanted to be with Dylan, it is frustrating that her giving up on the challenge negatively affected both the filmmakers project, and the lives of her support team. All for the sake of a few extra hours with her son…who apparently berated her for giving up when she returned early from that particular swim.
Beth gained a dozen or so hours with Dylan by abandoning the challenge, but lost out on further travels and bonding experiences around the globe with him while it was happening, as well as the shared elation and positive experiences that would follow should she have completed it.
As a parent I can empathise with Beth, but from a cinephile angle I am frustrated that this documentary fizzles out and leaves the viewer (and the filmmakers and support crew) unsatisfied and disappointed.
Review by Dave from a streaming link kindly supplied by 101 Films.