ned merrill is what you would call an american suburbanite. athletic and well played by burt lancaster. who decides one day to swim his way back home through his neighbors’ private pools. it is a strange journey that seems to have its own dreamlike, almost cartoonish reality. but as ned stops to speak with each of his neighbors, he discovers a whole new reality mirrored by their stingy words and behaviors. by their obvious rejections that seem to come out of nowhere. their constant dismissal is precisely what makes you doubt that this movie is a boring one after all. everything in their speech points directly to ned’s failure – be it financial, social, you name it. so his own illusions become harder and harder to fuel. in fact, they are shattered along the way, rendering ned’s reality a terrible fantasy and making his delusional façade fall off progressively.
rough around the edges in terms of plot structure and camera effects, the swimmer can still be perceived as an allegorical portrayal of a man who fails to understand that the shiny american dream has ignored him.