Burt Lancaster gives one of his most daringly complex performances in The Swimmer
, a fascinating adaptation of John Cheever's celebrated short story. At first it seems that middle-aged businessman Ned Merrill (Lancaster) is merely enjoying a spontaneous adventure, swimming from pool to pool among the well-tended estates of his affluent Connecticut neighbourhood. But as Ned encounters a variety of neighbours, we see from their reactions that he's on an entirely different kind of journey, balanced on the edge of some mysterious psychosis that we can't fully understand until the film's final, devastating image.
A compelling portrait of loss, refracted memories, and deep-rooted emotional denial, The Swimmer sprung from the same late-60s soil that yielded similarly ground-breaking literary films such as The Graduate and Goodbye, Columbus. It's an egotistical showcase for the physical prowess of its 55-year-old star, but Lancaster turns it into something deeper, more disturbing, and completely unforgettable. --Jeff Shannon