Written and directed by Tyson Wade Johnston, Streamline is a polished yet forgettable sports drama that puts young athletes, and the pressures they face, front and centre.
Levi Miller (A Wrinkle in Time, Jasper Jones, Pan) is Benjamin, a teenage swim prodigy on the brink of the most important meet of his career. Though his Olympic dreams are within his grasp, Benjamin’s focus is shattered when his estranged father (Mass‘ Jason Issacs) re-enters his life.
While Miller’s performance is strong, the standout is Laura Gordon (Undertow, Embedded, Saw V) as Benjamin’s tough, sacrificing mother, Kim — a woman determined to save her son from a family cycle of poverty and abuse at any cost.
Many sports films explore the mental and physical challenges that athletes must overcome, but Streamline opts for a slightly different approach. Benjamin has the fitness. He has the opportunity, resources, and support of his mother and hard-as-nails coach (Robert Morgan). That isn’t the problem. Instead, Benjamin’s struggles are primarily emotional and internal.
Early in the film, a scout from an elite sport program asks Benjamin what motivates him, why does he swim? Benjamin’s hesitation is revealing. He seems to blank for a moment, only recovering when his mother comes to his rescue with a cliché line about him being a “born swimmer”. It’s an important moment of characterization, one that sets up the question that drives Streamline’s story: how much does Benjamin actually want the life and success he has been set up for, and how much is merely the result of pressure from the adults around him?
It’s a question that Benjamin himself struggles to answer. As he attempts to navigate his father’s turbulent return, Benjamin must confront both his traumatic past and his future. His journey feels authentic, though the resolution comes a bit too easily. The stakes didn’t ever feel quite as high as Streamline makes them out to be. Johnston’s film doesn’t acknowledge any possible outcome for Benjamin between Olympic athlete and small town, blue-collar alcoholic. While it makes sense for Benjamin, a teenage boy, to think in terms of such extremes, it felt like an immature perspective for the other characters to share; particularly adults who claim to want the best for him.
Ultimately, Streamline opts for easy answers and is a bit too simplistic to be really compelling or memorable.
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