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Featured Image for review of Learn to Swim on Sean Kelly on Movies

Learn to Swim

Synopsis:
Two contemporary jazz musicians develop a stormy and tragic romance.

Table of Contents

A talented jazz musician is tormented by a tragic romance in . Dezi () is a saxophone player for a jazz band, who has recently moved into a new apartment, cutting himself off from his bandmates and former life. Suffering from a painful jaw infection that inhibits his playing, Dezi begins an brass cleaning business and tries to stay away from his nosey neighbour Sal (). During this time, Dezi remembers the near-distant past, where he entered into a relationship with Latin singer Selma (), the tragic end of which continues to haunt him.

Learn to Swim is the debut feature film from co-writer and director Thyrone Tommy. The story of the film focuses on jazz saxophonist Dezi, with the narrative moving back and forth between his reclusive present and stormy past. In the past, Dezi was helping a Latin singer named Selma to record her album, with the two end up becoming lovers. However, the ambiguous and tragic end of Dezi's relationship with Selma contributes to help modern seclusion and lines between past and present begin to blur as Dezi is forced to confront the truth.

Learn to Swim kicks off in a big way with an exquisitely shot jazz performance, with music written for the film by Chester Hansen and Leland Whitty, which combines traditional jazz with Latin and hip-hop sounds. Despite the great music in the film, it does take a little while to clue into the fractured chronology of the narrative, with the film using the swollen face and muffled speaking of Dezi's jaw infection to differentiate the scenes set in the present.

Of course, the plot of Learn to Swim is almost jazz in and of itself and the film as a whole isn't exactly a straightforward and coherent narrative. In fact, Thyrone Tommy makes the decision to keep the ultimate outcome of Dezi's relationship with Selma somewhat ambiguous, other than the fact that it was an event tragic enough for Dezi put his jazz career behind him and live a secluded life cleaning brass instruments. It is also great to see a film shot in Toronto that does not focus on the typical locales (no CN Tower in sight), instead taking place primarily around the many jazz clubs in the west end of the city.

Learn to Swim ultimately ends up to be a quite memorable debut with Thyrone Tommy, which combines some great jazz music with a tragic love story, not unlike the sad tones of the saxophone.

Trailer for Learn to Swim

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.