One is an Australian movie, and a good one, made in 2005, with Geoffrey Rush and Jesse Spencer, directed by Russell Mulcahy, the “true story of Tony Fingleton, a young man from a troubled family who found the inner strength to become a champion.” I must keep an eye out for it. (See pic below.)
The other Swimming Upstream is set in Providence Rhode Island and was made in 2001-2, written and directed by Robert Emery and starring Matt Czuchry (right) with an excellent supporting cast. That’s the one I have just seen, courtesy of Surry Hills Library.
The scrapbook of most teenagers shows family members and friends at a picnic, at the high school basketball game, at Disneyland. Morris Bird III’s, however, paints a different picture. This happy-go-lucky, all-American kid whose only wish in life is to get laid by his cute, but hesitant girlfriend suddenly faces terminal cancer, bringing painful and difficult issues to the surface. Picture an alcoholic father, played by Michael Moriarty, whose devotion to the bottle and mastery of self-pity keeps him from communicating with his son and daughter. Picture a teenage boy whose English teacher encourages him to write; he’s eloquent, full of passion for life, and is the type of free-spirit who goes against the grain, walking up on the wrong side of the escalator. Picture a best friend, played by Ben Savage, who may not be the most mature person in the world, but his support makes up for that. Then there’s a sister who nurses the wounds felt from living in a fractured family. Now try to imagine a mother who died when Morris was five; her picture is missing and the only way to get a complete sense of her is through the alcoholic father. In a moving, honest scene at the end, Morris Bird II gives Morris Bird III the truth and then some. He offers his love and desire to have a relationship with his son, giving this young man completion before he succumbs to his tragic fate.
That’s the synopsis from the DVD. It’s not lying. This is one good movie of its kind, honest, sad, but not mawkish and not settling for fakery. I strongly recommend it. It has real humanity.
I had a student in my class a few years back who succumbed to cancer. His mother honoured me by asking me to speak about him at a school assembly. I honestly don’t remember what I said; such things aren’t easy. He made it as far as Year 11. Very moving memory that. There is now a prize at Sydney High in his name, Michael Goodwin, given in acknowledgment of courage shown in the face of adversity.