Netflix brings us a true story this time. “The Swimmers” is about Yusra and Sara Mardini, two sisters. The one thing that made me cry heavily in this movie was the portrayal of a sweet family that goes through a lot because of war. The movie is based on the life of Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini. The first half of the movie is a survival thriller, where we see how Yusra and her sister Sara escape Syria to go to Germany. The movie shows the audience the difficulties refugees face in a foreign country. They don’t know what’s home for them or what the future holds for their family. The movie’s second half is about Yusra’s journey to the 2016 Rio Games. But how does she reach Rio, being a refugee? Read on!
A Sweet Tale Turns Into A Nightmare
The movie starts with Yusra and Sara in a suburb of Damascus, Syria. The year is 2011, and they are at a pool party. They seem to be enjoying their lives, and the whole setup is beautiful. We see that even in times of despair, these people find ways to stay calm and happy. In the case of Yusra and Sara, they have a very pretty and sweet family. Their father is their swimming coach, and they seem content. After a brief montage showing us their life in 2011, we now see them in 2015, four years later. The girls are having the time of their lives partying on a rooftop to the song “Titanium.” While they are dancing, we witness explosions. This was their reality, but the girls were still hopeful, trying to live their lives peacefully. However, the situation in Syria is worsening. People demand the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, and we see a lot of protests going on. On the one hand, Yusra is a little girl with big ambitions, as we see; on the other hand, we have Sara, who is pragmatic and, as one can say, “woke.” We often see Sara following the news and feeling empathy towards her country, but being the realistic girl she is, she demands to leave Syria for a better future. However, her father does not agree with this. He argues they will never have a home in a foreign country and that they should stay focused on their swimming career.
One day, when Yusra was competing in a competition, we witnessed a horrifying scene that brought jitters to my body. The whole area where the competition was being held was being bombed by the enemies, and during that attack, Yusra had a close call with one of the bombs. Although she survives, Yusra says she can’t handle being home and witnessing people she knows personally dying. She is also worried about the future of their youngest sister. Her mother agrees that the girls are not safe in the country anymore, and they decide to run away from Syria to Germany. Now you must be wondering, why Germany? Well, since the very beginning of the Syrian civil war that is shown in the movie, Germany has provided aid to the refugees. The German government has worked with organizations like the Red Cross and Save the Children to help refugees like Yusra and Sara Mardini.
Their Journey To A Different Country
After their father agrees to their wish, Sara, Yusra, and Nizar decide to leave Syria. Nizar tells the girls he knows a way and a guy who is ready to help. However, they are manipulated into believing that traveling across seas would be a better option and they will reach their destination without getting caught easily. They travel on a raft that is clearly very damaged. They don’t have many options, though; they have to trust the shady guy and travel; there’s no turning back for them. We see how they travel with other refugees on a raft across the dangerous water body. Eventually, their raft begins sinking; it can’t hold the weight of so many refugees. Here we see how Sara and Yusra take the lead and tell everyone what they need to do in order to survive. After many hazards, their raft’s engine stops! They’re in the middle of nowhere. Scared to death and praying, they start throwing things that are not necessary for them, and we witness Yusra throwing her medals. It is a very sad scene where we see how Yusra, being so young, was so passionate about her dreams. Further, we see the problem of the raft sinking still persisting. Here, Sara decides to jump into the vast ocean. She does so because the boat needs to be lighter; it is a heroic move on her part. Along with her, we see Yusra following her by jumping into the sea. Together, they pull the boat. One can find the scene very emotional as Yusra says if her sister goes in, she goes in with her. This shows how strong their relationship as sisters is. Anyway, as they are pulling the boat together, the engine starts working. The whole scenario isn’t that long, but I sure felt every second of it. The filmmaking is top-notch. There’s one scene where Yusra is just floating in the vast sea, and it’s scary but beautiful and comforting at the same time (somehow). Also, she even hears her father’s famous line where he keeps telling the girls to find their lane and swim their race.
Do The Refugees Make It Out Alive?
Yes, they do, and it is a very powerful scene. They see land the next morning, and there is a scene where we see hundreds of life jackets. This shows a lot of refugees escaped and came to Greece like them. Many of them might not have even survived. It is a heartbreaking scene because they are even refused water. Then there’s a scene where Yusra finds a tap. All the refugees, now good friends, drink water one by one. We see discipline there; the men let the women and children drink water first. It was a rather wholesome scene, and one can feel happy looking at them finally reaching the land. While walking through the streets of Greece, they are not treated very well, and they clearly feel unwelcome. Let alone them; the filmmaking is so strong that I started disliking Greece’s behavior toward refugees. They are ignored and stared at weirdly until they find a refugee camp. They are given shelter, food, and water there. We see more of the sisters’ relationship there, and we see Sara getting close to one of the refugees traveling with them, Emad. They start talking, and Yusra mentions how heroic it was of Sara to jump into the waters and prove her swimming skills and strength. It was truly inspiring to witness as an audience too. They further travel together and face a lot of situations where they are cheated and even molested at one point. At the age of 17, we see Yusra getting physically abused by a Hungarian on their way to Germany. After a point, she refuses to travel in a closed truck. After that, the sisters and their cousin’s brother decide to go to Germany on their own.
Do They Reach Germany?
After leaving the other refugees and deciding to embark on their journey to Germany without them, Yusra, Sara, and Nizar stay in a hotel room. They feel very comfortable there, and we see a sweet scene between the sisters. After getting molested, Yusra is clearly very disturbed, and through this tough time, she misses her home and family. But her sister is always there to make her laugh. They laugh and joke around when their cousin comes and says he has found a way to go to Germany by bus. They board the bus and arrive in Germany. Yes, they make it to Germany alive! When they reach Germany, we see everyone on the bus singing. They are filled with joy, and finally, their hard work seems to have paid off.
The Second Half
The second half of the movie is a little fast-paced. We jump ahead two months later in Berlin when Sara goes to a swimming coach and demands to be enrolled in his classes. His name is Sven, and he says no to both sisters at first, but as we know, Sara is an adamant girl. She doesn’t give up. She insists on getting enrolled and tells the coach about her achievements. He gives her a chance and asks both sisters to swim. Both of them show their excellent skills here. The actors are so good in the movie; each scene performed by both leads was commendable. They looked like professional swimmers; and we are sure the actors put in a lot of effort in learning each stroke because swimming is tough, and that too when you are portraying an Olympian!
Sara And Yusra’s Training
Yusra is very focused on her career as a swimmer, but we see Sara losing interest. Yusra is young and disciplined about her career, but at times she can talk too much. However, Sara is calmer but not more disciplined when it comes to her training. We see Sara partying instead of going to practice. Sara and Yusra start having quarrels over the same things, but they always make up in the end because they only have each other’s support. They also need to keep their family in Syria back home in mind. They struggle a lot together throughout the movie for their family. Anyhow, Yusra practices as hard as she can for the Olympics, but she is informed by Sven that she can’t compete in the Olympics and that it is an unrealistic dream. But a few days later, she is informed that she can compete in the Rio Olympics as part of the first-ever refugee team. However, she doesn’t want to compete. She feels like she won’t be competing because she is talented but because people feel “sad” for her. So she storms off, saying she doesn’t want to take part in the Olympics like that. But here comes our hero, Sara! She convinces Yusra to compete in the Olympics, saying it might be the only big opportunity they get and that she should swim for the refugees and everyone who has suffered and died due to war. We witness a very motivational monologue by Sara here. Sara agrees to take part in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
2016 Rio Olympics
In the final moments of the movie, we see Yusra traveling to Rio and enjoying her stay there. She does have some nightmares about losing her medals, and she misses her sister. However, Sara comes to support her during her match. We see Yusra winning a medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. It is a very powerful and teary moment. At last, we see the sisters running and celebrating Yusra’s medal on a beach in Rio.
Where Are They Now?
Well, we know that it’s based on a real story, so you’d be curious to know where they are now. Well, after the movie ends, we get some information about them. We get to know that Yusra also competed in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and she chose to swim for the “Refugee Olympic Team.” Also, she is a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, which is very inspiring. Sara chose to work for the refugees, but in 2018, she was arrested by Greek authorities on “people-smuggling charges,” which is absurd, but we hope she gets released soon and doesn’t get convicted for trying to help people like her.
“The Swimmers” is a 2022 drama film directed by Sally El Hosaini.