Mia is a thirtysomething woman amid a divorce and trying to rebuild her life with no job. A former swimming champion, she moves into a studio apartment located in a housing complex, more than a little lost at this difficult moment in life.
When she discovers that many of her neighbors have never learned how to swim, she offers to teach them. Though the local pool is closed down, she still can instruct them on breathing and form. Her classes prove popular, and more people from her new community join in — throwing Mia into a crisis of confidence but also helping her find new meaning in life.
Charming, humble and full of gentle humor rooted in affection for its characters, this short dramedy — written and directed by Valerie Leroy, who also plays the lead role of Mia — is about finding your way through difficult transitions in life, with a little help from some new friends and a willingness to embrace new opportunities wherever you can find them.
Like its main character, the craftsmanship and visuals of the film have an ordinary, everyday quality, with a muted, naturalistic style that doesn’t call a lot of attention to itself despite its thoughtfulness and intelligence. The direction capitalizes on the engagement of the editing and the strength of the writing, which carefully builds up Mia’s internal journey along with the growth of the swimming community.
Though it can’t spend a lot of time delving deep, the storytelling has an eye for the hopes and insecurities of these characters, who come to Mia’s studio. It also takes great pleasure in chronicling the increasing joy of these people coming together as they learn to swim — and the wry absurdity of a burgeoning group of neighbors “swimming” in a crowded studio.
As the lead actor, Leroy portrays Mia with a sympathetic sweetness and openness, traits that characterize someone who would agree to teach swimming without a pool to people she barely knows. She also captures Mia’s underlying anxiety with matter-of-fact subtlety, a sense of being adrift at life that many can relate to. But just when she feels at her lowest — and worries that she can’t handle the growing popularity of her classes — her spirits are lifted by the small community around her, in a way that’s no less heartwarming for its humility.
“Home Swim Home” is about how Mia embraces the imperfect but beautiful life in front of her. But the film’s great strength is its pleasure in observing how ordinary people come together in all their great diversity. Some are scared of water but want to learn how to swim; others just enjoy hanging out with the crowd. But as we see in the film’s lovely final scene, everyone is there for a common purpose, supporting, encouraging and learning from one another, with the help of their unexpected leader. It is a pure and warm evocation of togetherness, and for the film’s runtime, we are a part of this community as well.