Against The Current is an American independent film directed by Peter Callahan. The film stars Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love, FlashForward) as a financial writer in his early thirties who is struggling with grief over the loss of a loved one. Desperate to do something meaningful with his life, he enlists the help of his best friend Jeff (Justin Kirk of Weeds). Paul plans to swim the length of the Hudson River (150 miles), while Jeff drives a boat alongside him. Jeff’s former workmate Liz (Elizabeth Reaser, Grey’s Anatomy) joins them in order to keep Jeff company and escape a long, lonely summer in New York.
The use of 3 primarily TV-actors complements the film well, adding a great depth of character. Their performances are relaxed, with a real sense of friendship that is not over-dramatised or self-important. When Liz confronts Paul about his decision to kill himself after the swim, it seems to come from a real curiosity, and she proceeds with respect for his boundaries. She begins to ply him with questions from a logical perspective, making him explain his choices rather than defend himself. It is this tactful way of questioning that allows us to get to know Paul and the way his mind works. These are all things that Jeff already knows or is afraid to ask, and in many cases Liz’s questions are the ones we might ask ourselves. We get to know Paul along with – but not through the eyes of – Liz. Liz and Jeff attempt to talk him around and push him by testing his resolve. Ultimately, they know that they are fighting a losing battle with Paul, but their hope resonates throughout the film.
Against the Current is a deeply emotional film. Like Paul’s journey, it is calm and evenly paced, with a sense of urgency that simmers beneath the surface, boiling over when tensions peak. The music and steady movement of the water move us along and we learn more of Paul’s emotional struggle along the way. There is a real sense of his long, patient wait, and this journey marks the home straight.
Against the Current is a good, heartfelt indie drama. It strikes an excellent balance, with a tenderness that draws you in and plenty of funny moments that mimic real life. A beautiful film and a touching look at life, love, and friendship.