‘Les Crevettes Pailletées’
Inspired by the real life LGBTQ water polo team that debut director Cédric Le Gallo is a member of. While also transferring the directors real life experience into a fictional story of the sporting underdog. The Shiny Shrimps may not offer a completely unique cinematic experience, but does shine with both comedy and love. While equally bringing the effervescence of Pricilla Queen of the Desert into the swimming pool. Taking the audience on a heartwarming, funny and meaningful journey into belonging and identity.
Olympic swimmer Matthias Le Goff (Nicolas Gob) is struggling to maintain his world beating best. And with his career nosediving in the pool. The swimmers toxic masculinity and frustrations find themselves unleashed during a TV interview, where he uses a homophobic slur. An action that leads to his suspension by the sports governing body. His route back to swimming laying in his ability to coach a gay water polo team named ‘The Shiny Shrimps’.
The Shiny Shrimps however, are a team with a decidedly lacklustre interest in winning. The team bound together by a sense of belonging and friendship rather than sporting prowess. With their founder, Jean (Alban Lenoir), keen to get the shrimps to the prestigious Gay Games in Croatia despite the teams ability. While his own battle with illness is kept from his teammates, as he encourages them to reach for the championships.
Meanwhile team members each have their own pressures and social baggage standing in the way of success. Alex (David Baiot) is Jean’s ex and still madly in love with him. Happily married new father Cedric (Michael Abiteboul) tries to balance home life with team commitments. While the elder of the group, militant gay rights campaigner Joel (Roland Menou) finds every chance to critique the teams equality credentials. Meanwhile the teams younger members, party boy Xavier (Geoffrey Couet), unconfident Damien (Romain Lancry) and nervous new recruit Vincent (Felix Martinez). All bring their own social needs for acceptance and belonging to the team. And finally there’s Fred (Romain Brau), who returns to the team after a short break as a new woman.
As Le Goff arrives for his coaching duties, he immediately decides the The Shiny Shrimps are beyond help. Feigning interest in the teams performance to try and get back to his career. However, as the Gay Games grow closer Le Goff begins to find belonging and meaning in the group. With his own prejudices and perceptions both challenged and changed.
Co-directors Maxime Govare and Cédric Le Gallo cleverly dovetail laugh out loud comedy with a truly heartwarming exploration of friendship. Creating a film that plays homage to the road trip humour of Pricilla Queen of the Desert. While also finding its own unique voice on themes of equality and belonging. Particularly in the exploration of sport as a vehicle of social inclusion and change. After all how many LGBTQ films have focused on the influence of sport in building communities and inclusion? The answer is simple, very few. And too often when sport is used, the focus is placed on ‘coming out’ or defying the homophobia of fellow teammates. However, for The Shiny Shrimps water polo is the glue that builds friendships, camaraderie and belonging. With competitiveness second to the sense of achievement and affiliation physical activity can bring.
While the overarching narrative equally swims in the vibrant colours of LGBTQ life. With characters who never succumb to the negativity or oppression around them. Each one wearing their individual identities with pride and confidence. And while some may accuse the film of playing to stereotypes or cliches. This is not a fair reflection of the characters at the heart of the film. Characters who embody the diversity of the gay community both young and old, and the differing experiences of gay life in the 21st Century. Yes its true, that characters are of simple construct, but Govare and Le Gallo surround each one with compassion and sincerity, ensuring the audience feel emotionally attached to their journey.
The Shiny Shrimps is largely predictable, playing with the same underdog stories that have been tried and tested in Cool Runnings and Swimming with Men. But the ability of the film to embrace its underdog roots alongside an LGBTQ narrative make it shine. As does the surprising and tender final act, where sport takes a back seat to the power of friendship. Ultimately creating a film that makes you laugh, cry and believe in the power of friendship and sport to create a better more inclusive world.
The Shiny Shrimps is released on Streaming and Blu Ray from 13th January 2020. Pre-order HERE
This review is brought to you in partnership with our friends at Peccadillo Pictures
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