A French comedy about a real-life gay water polo team, The Shiny Shrimps will inevitably remind audiences of Swimming with Men and the Gallic version, Sink or Swim, which both re-told the true story about a terrible male synchronised swimming team. This is a more flamboyant film, one that has all the hallmarks of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, with its road movie element as the so-called Shiny Shrimps go on a trip on a bus through France towards Croatia to compete in the Gay Games.
The story begins as Matthias (Nicolas Gob), a champion swimmer, is caught on camera making a homophobic comment to an interviewer. Rather than be banned by the governing body, his punishment is to train the Shrimps, a rag-tag water polo team, to help them qualify for the Games. Needless to say, they’re awful and Matthias has no wish to train them, but they’re stuck with each other. Somehow, they beat a group of “badass” lesbians and then they’re off, riding from Paris on an open-topped bus.
The group has a variety of members, from the loud and proud transgender Fred (Romain Brau) to the older, fastidious Joel (Roland Menou) and the young Vincent (Félix Martinez), who isn’t sure he wants to be gay but joins anyway. Along the way, there will be a lot of partying to Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero, the odd hook-up (although one rule of the Shrimps is that they don’t fraternise amongst themselves) and, sadly, occasional homophobic attacks.
Matthias, meanwhile, will gradually come round to enjoying their company and being a super-motivational coach. But The Shiny Shrimps doesn’t entirely follow the usual pattern for a sporting movie (despite featuring plenty of training montages, of course). The finale is a moving get-together that celebrates camaraderie, tolerance and difference, themes that run throughout the film.
Credit also the aquatic photography by cinematographer Jérôme Alméras in the numerous swimming pool scenes; they’re buzzy and alive and thoroughly convincing. Directed by Maxine Govare and Cédric Le Gallo, who was a member of the real Shiny Shrimps, the result is a feelgood film with a giant heart.
The Shiny Shrimps opens on 6 September. For more details, visit Peccadillo Pictures.
Lead image: Still from The Shiny Shrimps.