Thyrone Tommy’s Learn to Swim flows with an energy as vibrant as the jazz music at its core. Moving with the nimble dexterity of a seasoned professional, Tommy’s feature debut is a stunning feat. It is a film filled with a sensual tension and moody emotion, which only makes its meditation on love and loss even more palpable.
Navigating the complicated affairs of the heart is Dezi (Thomas Antony Olajide), a talented sax player and producer. A bit of a perfectionist, often to the detriment of his relationship with other musicians, Dezi is the type of person who will easily take his ball and go home if the game is not to his liking. His moody demeanor is the opposite of Selma’s (Emma Ferreira), a vivacious singer who believes that music and life should be lived to the fullest. Assured in herself, Selma is working on an EP for a major label and wants Dezi to work with her on the album. It does not take long for sparks to fly between the two, setting the stage for a volatile romance.
While turbulent romances between artists have been tackled on screen before, Tommy’s film takes traditional trope and remixes them into a fresh tune. Playing with chronology, by jumping around in time, Learn to Swim often feels like two distinct and equally riveting films. One that focuses on the joys of budding love and the other a tale of grief and pain. The latter manifesting itself physically in a tooth infection that Dezi is desperate to find a cure for.
The shifting emotions in the two different time frames are expertly orchestrated through the subtle camera movements and sharp editing. The warmth of the colour palette used in flashbacks, compared to the cool blues of the present, make navigating the two periods a treat to experience. Learn to Swim is as visually rich as the emotions brewing within it. One is immediately drawn into the film and its characters, thanks to the outstanding performances by Olajide and Ferreira, and their personal demon’s.
Expanding on the potential he displayed in his 2016 short film Mariner, which also starred Olajide, Tommy solidifies himself as one of cinema’s exciting new voices. A layered and heartbreakingly beautiful tale of love and loss, Learn to Swim is worth getting your feet wet for.