The Swimmers Review: Exhilarating journey from war-hit Syria to 2016 Rio Olympics


The Swimmers, a compelling and terrifying real story, spans a volatile range of emotions over the course of 130 minutes. The film successfully demonstrates how astronomically challenging and dangerous the path can be for refugees. The story of a teenager is similar to refugees who find themselves staring death in the face when trying to flee oppression, conflict, or cruelty, and many of them are sucked up, never to be heard from again.


The Swimmers is the true story of Yusra Mardini, a 17-year-old who has hopes of competing for Syria in the Olympics but is forced to flee the homeland in 2015 together with Sara Mardini, who does not share her fervent sporting ambitions, and a cousin Nizar. As tourists, they take a flight to Turkey and then board a boat to Greece with more than a dozen other refugees from different countries including Afghanistan and Eritrea in Africa. In the middle of the ocean, the inflatable boat—designed for many fewer people—experiences engine difficulty and begins to fill with water.

The sisters fearlessly plunge into the frigid Aegean Sea and swim for three hours to lighten the burden on the boat till everyone reaches Lesbos, Greece. The group passes the piles of life jackets here as they continue their journey. Following several terrible events that cause them to reconsider their choice to leave home, they go to Germany in part on foot, in a car, and on a bus.

Cast and Crew

Directed by: Sally El Hosaini

Written by:  Sally El Hosaini and Jack Thorne

Matthias Schweighöfer as Sven

Manal Issa as Sara Mardini

Nathalie Issa as Yusra Mardini


Ali Suliman as Ezzat Mardini

Ahmed Malek as Nizar

James Krishna Floyd as Emad

Nahel Tzegai as Shada

Where to Watch The Swimmers

You can watch The Swimmers (2022) on Netflix.

Terrible Journey

The terrible journey from normalcy to hopelessness is shown by director/co-writer Sally El-Hosaini (My Brother the Devil). Yusra and Sara Mardini were two typical teenage girls of Damascus who showed promise in sports. Sneaking away with pals was a sign of youthful exuberance for them. It appeared unreal even to imagine them trying to swim for their lives as a packed inflatable boat was about to capsize.

Their lives suddenly turned upside down. It became routine to flee from the authorities, beg for water, and seek sanctuary with other immigrants. Nobody gave a damn about their origins or motives. They were unwelcome intruders whose agony and deaths were meaningless. They had no other option except to use smugglers to go forward. Even worse, because they were attractive and young, they were easy prey for sexual assault. These images were extremely painful to watch.


The Swimmers Review

The Swimmers is not really all about grief and pain. The movie emerges from the shadows with a bright glow. Millions of Syrians were given shelter in Germany. In their refugee camps, Yusra, Sara, and Nizar received kind treatment. The two sisters were then able to work toward the objective they had set out to achieve. Yusra and Sara were tormented by survivor’s guilt, but they reached the right conclusion. They had to endure, cope with, and progress. The price was too high to forfeit. The way Sara gave a pep talk to her younger sister, Yusra, before her Olympic swimming event was really moving. You cannot help but support the incredible Mardini sisters.

Scene with the Piles of Life Jackets

The scene with the life jackets is among the most harrowing scenes in the movie. A sign of the millions of migrants that sailed across the treacherous sea in pursuit of a better life, thousands of life jackets are piled up near the coastline off the coast of Greece. Yusra stated in an interview that the location with the life jackets really exists.

Story of Sara Mardini

Although Yusra is the main character in this sports movie because it is about her adventure that ends in Rio, her sister will get her own movie. Long Distance Swimmer: Sara Mardini, a documentary, will be released next year, picking up where The Swimmers leaves off. The movie, according to a Variety article, follows Sara, who volunteered for three years to assist migrants who travel in a similar way to them. Sara was detained by Greek police in 2018 on suspicion of espionage and people smuggling. According to Variety, the movie follows Sara’s battle for justice over a period of three years.

Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR

Yusra will no longer be able to play for the Refugees team as she obtained German citizenship. She hasn’t ruled out traveling to Paris 2024 with the German team, but lately, she’s played more of a goodwill ambassador for the UNHCR, the UN organization for refugees.

The Swimmers Review

Sports films typically end with a more overt victory, such as a medal or a first-place finish. However, Yusra’s adventure came to an end after winning her maiden qualification race in Rio. Her success, as her sister explains to her later in The Swimmers, was getting across the ocean while swimming in the dark beside a sinking boat that was crowded with desperate people. Her achievement lies in just qualifying for the Olympics, thanks to the great support of her German swim coach Sven in Berlin, and in her tenacity and will in not letting her many obstacles prevent her from achieving her Olympic goals.

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The Summer (2022) Reviews

Rotten Tomatoes - 7.8
IMDb - 7.5
Common Sense Media - 8
Tribune Wired - 8


Total Score

A must-watch inspiring story of Mardini sisters. The movie shines brightly as it emerges from the darkness.

Murryam Hafeez

I am a Transportation Engineer by profession and also a voracious reader. I read everything, from novels to the ingredients written on my jar of peanut butter.
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