Learn to Swim

TIFF 2021: Learn To Swim Review

Learn To Swim is an intoxicating dive into the human psyche. Director Thyrone Tommy expertly crafts an enduring experience of love and loss that elevates a simple tale of failed romance.

Dezi (Thomas Antony Olajide), a brilliantly talented sax player is haunted by memories of his romance with Selma (Emma Ferreira), the vivacious former singer in the band. Both their musical styles and their personalities clash, and, as expected, the sparks fly immediately. But instead of taking us down a well-worn narrative path, Tommy does something ingenious. His clever use of warm palettes to depict memories clash with the colder tones of Dezi’s current reality in an interwoven narrative of what was and what is now.

Dezi is bitter and, not only did he quit his band, but he has a raging jaw infection. The more he isolates himself, the more he is plagued by memories, and that’s when Tommy’s artistry shines. Eventually time becomes a fusion of past and present as Dezi’s pain becomes intolerable. Memories are now a mere glance or—in this case—a camera move away.

Like a great jazz solo, the film draws us into a realm beyond the everyday. Learn To Swim becomes a hallucinatory blur of experiences, more of a fever dream than a love story. The film becomes a familiar but undefinable amalgam of emotion that sometimes only music, especially jazz music, can express. That’s what we look for in art and that’s what elevates Learn To Swim. It’s a remarkable debut feature: Thyrone Tommy is a filmmaker to watch.

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Learn to Swim is screening as a part of TIFF 2021, which runs from September 9 until the 18.

Follow along for our latest coverage including reviews, interviews and more, live from TIFF and join in on the conversation on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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