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film review

Thomas Antony Olajide in Learn to Swim.Samantha Falco/Courtesy of Mongrel Media

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Learn to Swim

Directed by Thyrone Tommy

Written by Thyrone Tommy and Marni Van Dyk

Starring Thomas Antony Olajide and Emma Ferreira

Classification N/A; 90 minutes

Opens in Toronto and Vancouver theatres March 25, with more cities to follow throughout spring


Critic’s Pick


Canadian director Thyrone Tommy’s debut film about the turbulent romance between two contemporary jazz musicians shows us many moods. It is sexy in parts, simmering in others and mournful in turns as it depicts the various stages of Dezi (Thomas Antony Olajide) and Selma (Emma Ferreira) falling in and out of love.

Dezi is a gifted but annoyingly taciturn saxophone player, reluctant to work on other artists’ demos unless he sees something in them. Selma is a bubbly Latin jazz singer who is not as polished as Dezi, but still able to hold her own. The film jumps back and forth in time, but you quickly figure out that Dezi and Selma’s partnership – whether romantic or professional – is going to be rough.

Learn to Swim is cleverly crafted, with intriguing use of camera shots and angles. Filmed mainly inside jazz bars or Dezi and Selma’s apartments, there’s an intimacy to the production. We get a glimpse into the working lives of musicians, hoping to get gigs that make more than “tens and twenties,” as the artists describe their gig-to-gig life. Just like a jazz tune, the film establishes an image, elaborates on it and brings it back to a satisfying close.