Swimming Pool

Lacking a Hollywood studio's multimillion marketing campaign and the resources to open on 2,000 screens across the US, independent and foreign films depend almost entirely on word of mouth to make any decent money. So I finally gave into peer pressure and saw Swimming Pool based mainly on how well it was doing at art house theatres, even though I had seen Ozon's previous feature Under the Sand (starring Swimming Pool leading lady Charlotte Rampling) and found it dull, meandering, and finally pointless.

Swimming Pool is far livelier, if ultimately as pointless: An extraordinarily repressed British mystery writer (Rampling) is told by her publisher – on whom she seems to have a bit of a crush – to take a holiday in his villa in the south of France and recharge her creative juices. Soon after she arrives, basking in the sunshine and overcoming her writer's block, her peace and quiet is broken when the publisher's sexy, foul-mouthed French daughter (Ludivine Sagnier) shows up unannounced one night. The contrast between icy British spinster and lusty French vixen is so pronounced that the women immediately hate each other, before forming an inevitable bond.

Swimming Pool is at its best when it explores the nuances of these two complex, fascinating characters. Unfortunately, the story takes a sharp left turn, and what substance is there completely dissolves after a series of bizarre and often unrelated scenes. I won't give anything away, but the twists and turns in the film's second half turn from intriguing to confusing to just plain obvious. In the end they negate what was interesting about the story in the first place. Rampling is great, however, as is Sagnier, whose frequent nudity might be the reason for the film's impressive box office.