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LEARN TO SWIM: 3 ½ STARS. “bends the notes to create something new.”

In “Learn To Swim,” a new film about memories and music, and now playing in theatres, first time feature filmmaker Thyrone Tommy tells the story as though he was creating a jazz riff. The love story may be familiar but he bends the notes just enough to create something new.

The story of gifted sax player Dezi (Thomas Antony Olajide) is told on a broken timeline. His past affair with singer Selma (Emma Ferreira) is shot in warm, welcoming colors as the two create music and fall in love. Interspersed are colder, harder scenes from Dezi’s present day. Bitter and alone, he is isolated from the world, unable to play music because of a jaw infection.

It is a study of Dezi’s relationships, with Selma, others around him and his connection to music. Like real life, those relationships are often messy and chaotic, but even as the disparate parts of Dezi’s story threaten to become obtuse, Tommy brings the story back into focus as the sax player’s pain becomes a common thread between the two timelines.

“Learn To Swim” is a simple story told in a way that adds depth and complexity. Dezi is an interesting character, talented and troubled, yet still, often sympathetic. Olajide brings him to life in a quietly powerful performance that emphasizes not only the character’s talent but the love and loss that shaped his creativity.

Ferreira is an effective foil, but never loses sight of what makes Selma tick.

The real star here, however, is Tommy. He and co-writer Marni Van Dyk create a story palette to paint a portrait of love, loss and beautiful music. It is a very promising feature debut, one that expertly balances performance and feel, just like the best jazz.

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