Robert J. Siegel’s movie dips into areas largely untouched by recent films: women’s friendships and real life. Frankie (Lauren Ambrose, from HBO’s Six Feet Under) has seldom ventured from the Myrtle Beach summer resort that is her home town, and she could hardly seem more out of place. Red-haired and painfully pale, with big cheeks like a Campbell Soup Kid, she hoofs about the beach and honky-tonk streets in overalls while best friend Nicola (Jennifer Dundas Lowe), who owns the body-piercing parlor, shows all the skin she can. In short, Frankie has no interest in the local scene, let alone the activity of the title, but she’s stuck because she co-owns the family diner along with her crabby, married brother Neil (Josh Pais). So each summer succeeds the next, the tourists come and go, and Frankie still hasn’t bought a car and escaped.
Inevitably a stranger comes to town — two in fact. Josee (Joelle Carter) has looks, clothes, and style — everything Frankie doesn’t, except a job. She becomes the worst waitress in the diner’s history, and Frankie’s new best friend. Heath (Jamie Harrold) is a latter-day hippie in a van whose subversive taste immediately picks out Frankie from the town’s array of beauties. Hotheaded Nicola finds herself high and dry, and despite the tangles of jealousy and attraction, life continues pretty much as before — waiting tables and denying desires. At times Swimming can seem as if it were treading water, but then you look up and the shore is far away or totally changed, with the familiar gone and everything new but somehow all the same.