I am a bit of a softie when it comes to those movies about diverse groups of people who come together to learn something new like tap dancing (“Stepping Out” with Liza Minnelli) or ballroom dancing (“Shall We Dance” with Richard Gere) or Italian (“Italian for Beginners”). We get to see glimpses of lots of different characters and stories and we get to see the way that they engage with new challenges and are transformed by their sense of accomplishment, new skills, and relationships.
I really enjoyed a quiet little movie in this genre called The Big Bad Swim. A group of people sign up for a swim class at a local rec center. It is a special class for people who are reluctant or scared of the water. The students include a recently divorced calculus teacher, a cop, a casino dealer/stripper, and a couple with a new pool. The movie skillfully interweaves the characters and their relationships with the kind of messy authenticity and respect for the audience that makes independent films so engaging. The performances are exceptionally layered and true, especially Paget Brewster as the teacher, and the little coda after the credits is delightful. This has very mature material, including sexual references and situations, drinking and drug use, and some very bad decisions, but is well worth a look for fans of independent film and good stories.