A movie tangentially about daddy issues would normally make Freud references but let’s give credit to Tyson Wade Johnston’s Streamline for making Jung references instead. Those references appear five minutes in, as a teacher, well, teaches Jung to a high school, which feels too early. Maybe this is just how Australian schools roll and I’m just a North American troglodyte. Also, viewers know that when kids are learning things in a classroom it’s going to affect their real life. The actor playing that character who feels those effects is Levi Miller. Miller plays a 16 year old swimmer Benjamin Lane. He has Olympic chances but his father’s (Jason Isaacs) return from prison changes a few things. Benjamin excels when he’s in the pool but that changes because of his father’s peripheral presence.
Streamline does show a few interesting things about the objectification of athletes and men in general. He’s in a better shape than I’ll ever be, and there are shots that show how men from swimming institutes prod his shirtless body to see how fit and Olympic ready he is. The performances here are captivating up to a certain point. Most of the actors here look like they can play these characters in their sleep. Miller is good as an increasingly aloof teenage. Lest I come off glib on paper, most people did have their aloof teenager place, but either he’s close enough to the character’s age to make that real or that his own talent makes that more nuanced. Same goes for Robert Morgan who plays Benjamin’s coach who is pushing the latter harder than he should. He’s borderline off putting.
Isaacs is the film’s wildcard, although the success or failure of his character depends on how the script goes. And now we can talk about Streamline‘s script and other elements that the script touches on. The first act sets up Benjamin’s spiral, which leads to the, duh, second when he moves out of his mother Kim’s (Laura Gordon) place and moves into his brother Dave’s (Jake Ryan) place. Dave is my kind of guy, but a) this is not that kind of movie and b) this move and thus Dave becomes more intolerable as the movie progress. As increasingly intolerable Dave is, what bonds the brothers together is their fear of their dad. Isaacs plays the character as a reformed sinner, but the movie doesn’t let him explore what makes that character scary.
Having characters describe someone as scary isn’t enough to make them scary. Anyway, indulge me on a brief aside while talking about Kim, who is basically a non-entity in this movie. The same goes for Benjamin’s Aboriginal girlfriend Patti (Tasia Zalar) whose dialogue is basically “stop wasting your talent”. Gender and race don’t fact here. And we’re back. The movie then goes on a third act, duh, when Benjamin’s realizes that Dave is bad news and he leaves Dave to fix things. The dialogue degenerates here to just the characters fighting and swearing at each other. These scenes are reminiscent of of Cassavetes but the actions and the dialogue feel too quick to make viewers feel any emotional resonance.