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Sink or Swim is a French-language comedy that uses synchronised swimming as a vehicle to explore masculinity. The story centres around a group of male synchronised swimmers coping with depression, who explore ideas of friendship, loneliness, inclusion and fulfilment, together. We discover the insights behind the show and explore how entertainment is helping shape healthier gender expectations.

Les Grand Bain – or Sink or Swim – is a 2018 movie that tells the tale of a group of disenchanted French men, seeking solace in the art of synchronised swimming. Directed by Gilles Lellouche, the film is released in France in a time where male suicide is reaching epidemic levels – one person commits suicide in France every hour, a majority of them being men. The film leverages issues around masculinity that are considered taboo and shows how groups of men can open up within the confines of a group safely. It also offers a provocative outlook on how traditional gender roles are preventing men from engaging in artistic social activity that could help men get in touch with their feelings and express their vulnerabilities openly.

Ideals of masculinity are being challenged Ideals of masculinity are being challenged
Toa Heftiba (2018) ©

In France, male depression is a taboo subject and leaves many dealing with the fallout of toxic masculinity feeling helpless and detached. While ‘bromances’ with a childhood or university friend is common among younger men, the difficulty to make male friends as an older adult due can leave men with little places to turn, other than into themselves. Loneliness especially puts men at risk of depression, which is something Sink or Swim handles tenderly. In the US 'The Man Enough Project' helps men explore feelings of masculinity openly and frankly, in part going some way to helping both young and old men find their tribes as adults.

Sophie Brand is a behavioural strategist at Canvas8,  which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research.


07 Nov 18
2 min read

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