Against the Current (2009)
A review by Shlomoh Sherman
August 18, 2018

Read about Against The Current
On the Internet Movie Data Base

Against the Current (2009)
Writer/Director: Peter Callahan
Stars: Joseph Fiennes, Samantha Sherman, Pell James, Mary Tyler Moore
Plot Summary: Struggling with a tragic past, a man enlists two friends to help him swim the length of the Hudson River.
Genres: Drama
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)- Rated R for language and some sexual content
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: January 18 2009 (USA)
Filming Locations: Bannerman's Castle, Pollepel Island, New York, USA
Box Office:
Budget:$3,000,000 (estimated)
Company Credits:
Production Co: Ghost Robot, Ambush Entertainment
Runtime: 98 min
Color: Color
Nominations and wards - See below


Paul Thompson is a man who lives without hope. His wife and child were killed in an automoile accident and he is unconsolable. In oder to continue living, he seeks a meanngful project on which to focus his attention. An idea occurs to him. he will swim the length of the Hudson River from the town of Troy in the north to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the southern end of Manhattan.

He enlists the help of his friends, Jeff and Liz, who will sail a motorboat alongside him as he moves downstream. He and Jeff have talked about swimming the Hudson since they were children. It has always been, more or less, a childhood fantasy but now Paul wants to actualize that dream. Jeff and Liz hope that this adventure will energize Paul and take his mind off the coninual depressing mood. Paul tells his friends that he wants to finish his swim by no later than a certain date, August 28.

There is an interesting interlude, probably meant to give the audience a break from the film's tension. The three friends stop for one of the nights at Liz's mother's Hudson Valley home. Dinner that evening offers witty repartee among Liz's mother and her sexy 20-year-old sister.

Along the way, the boat is stopped by the River Police who want to know what is going on. When they learn that Paul is swiming the length of the river, the police ask if he has a permit to do so. The trio realize that the question is nothnig more than police harassment due to the audacity of what Paul is trying to accomplish. Jeff remarks to the officer that no one needs a permit to swim in the river, and they move on.

As they appraoch the Verrazano Bridge, Jeff suddenly realizes that Paul has chosen the August 28 date because it is the anniversary of the death of his wife and child, and Paul tells his friends that now that he has completed his swim, he will swim out into the river and drown himself. They are shocked, especially Liz who has fallen for Paul. Then Jeff remembers that five years previously, Paul had told him that he wanted to commit suicide. Jeff had said that Paul should wait five years and if he still wanted to end his life, he would support him in it. Liz expresses her love for Paul and begs him to reconsider. But Paul seems intent on ending his life. As the two friends watch him swim out to end his life, Jeff tells Liz, "If he changes his mind, he will come back to us."

The audience does not know if Paul does change his mind since the screen fades and the movie ends.

Predictably, Rotten Tomatoes [] gave the film a bad review. I think that's because the plot lends itself to becoming a sappy, soapy mellowdrama if not handled properly. My own opinion is that the script, the direction, the acting, and the cinemaphotography are so well executed that I couldn't help but care about what happens to the characters. Call me a sucker for a tear-jerker. I enjoyed the movie.

Hollywood Reporter review of 1/22/2009 remarks: Filming along the magnificent Hudson, [the film] takes in remarkable sights and scenes and finds drama and comedy at every bend. The movie is technically flawless, which is difficult when filming on water. And in case you, too, were wondering: The Hudson has been cleaned enough that Fiennes did not risk exposure to too many toxins by doing his own swimming.

And Steve J, a fan of the movie, made the following observation on the Rotten Tomatoes website:
This is a terrific movie. A real sleeper. But the info is wrong. He swims south towards New York Harbor. But he would be "against the current" near the end because the tidal surges from the ocean make the Hudson flow backwards, up toward Albany.

Apparently, this is not a movie for everyone. Here is an exerpt from Mastershaman's February 23, 2011 review on IMDB:

What? Are all people here the filmmaker's friends? This totally blew
Shame they got 3 million to get this film made. No wonder; this is the director's first film. I have no idea what the other reviewers are on! 'Warm' 'Authentic'? So many other films 5 times as good could have been made for that kind of money. Totally boring 'woo-hoo, watch me! I'm witty, indie, and I have actor friends in high places'! I couldn't watch this at all. Full of lengthy pretentious 'so-called-smart/witty/ funny' dialog interspersed with the prerequisite Sundance indie feel piano track and indie alt-rock band interludes while I'm watching Joe Fiennes swim in the water. Exhilarating entertainment! NOT! Turned it off half-way through screaming in pain!

OK! You can't win 'em all!

KUDOS TO Joseph Fiennes as Paul Thompson, a difficult and taxing role to play as he did all the actual swimming. I remember him best in one of my favs - SHAKESPEAR IN LOVE
KUDOS TO Justin Kirk as Jeff Kane and TO Elizabeth Reaser as Liz Clark; neither one looks familiar to me but I probably have seens them before; I just don't remember
KUDOS TO Mary Tyler Moore as Liz' Mom; unfortunately, this was this terrific actress' last film

You can borrow this movie from your local library. I did after a friend recommended it.

Mary Tyler Moore's last film.
When production began it was found that Joseph Fiennes was sitting too low in the water in the swimming shots, and it was not always possible to discern that it was him in the water. So several days were spent creating a buoy that sat just below the surface of the water, for Fiennes to support himself on.
The title of the film could be seen as a misnomer, since Paul Thompson (Joseph Fiennes) is swimming with the current, downstream, and not against the current, or upstream, but below Albany NY, where most if not all of the film takes place, the Hudson river is a tidal estuary, and flows both ways with the tide.

Jeff Kane: We are looking to buy a boat.
Boatyard Owner: You sure can't have one for free... Ha-ha-ha
[laughter, slowing turning into hysterical cough; also declining any help offer with a hand-sign. All shocked, cough lasts for about 20-25 seconds, and at the end, he spits out, saying:]
Boatyard Owner: What kinda boat?
Jeff Kane: [totally confused] What?
Boatyard Owner: What kind of boat you're looking for?
Jeff Kane: Oh... aah... smallest one you got...
Boatyard Owner: Like a canoe?
[laughing, accompanied with small, scary cough]
Paul Thompson: A motor-boat... with a weak motor...

Grace Cathedral Park Performed by Red House Painters
Salvador Sanchez (Acoustic) Performed by Sun Kil Moon
Rollercoaster Performed by Red House Painters
Holes Performed by Mercury Rev


Dallas International Film Festival 2009
Winner - Special Jury Prize for direction - Peter Callahan

Read about Against The Current On the Internet Movie Data Base

Cast overview, first billed only:
Joseph Fiennes ... Paul Thompson
Samantha Sherman ... Katie
Pell James ... Amy Thompson
Justin Kirk ... Jeff Kane
Elizabeth Reaser ... Liz Clark
Amy Hargreaves ... Sarah Kane
Martin Shakar ... Boatyard Owner
Avery Glymph ... Fisherman #1
Chad Brigockas ... Fisherman #2
Tom O'Rourke ... Dock Man #1
John Rue ... Dock Man #2
Douglas Odell ... Dock Man #3
Seth Kanor ... Officer Lefurgy
Mary Tyler Moore ... Liz' Mom
Constance Barron ... Aunt Karen Michelle Trachtenberg ... Suzanne, Liz' sister

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