The Ponds: Still Waters Run Deep

The Ponds: Still Waters Run Deep

The Ponds: Still Waters Run Deep

The Ponds is an observational documentary following the swimmers who take the waters all year round at three enigmatic ponds – the Ladies’ Pond, the Mixed Pond and the Men’s Pond – on Hampstead Heath, 320 hectares of forest, parkland and wildlife in the heart of London.

It’s an experience that has barely changed in the 200 years since Keats and Constable immortalised them and, while modern life gets ever more chaotic, film-makers Patrick McLennan and Samuel Smith focus on the calmer waters of these gentle, gender-segregated ponds and discover what compels people to swim in 2˚C/36˚F water on a pitch-black January morning.

The four seasons and their distinct characters are vividly brought to life in The Ponds. At the height of summer the Heath is packed with picnickers and the queues to the ponds seem endless, to the annoyance of the year-rounders, while in the depth of winter swimmers break the ice to have their daily dips.

The narrative drive is provided by the colourful personalities who swim at the ponds each day. Many are dealing with physical, emotional and psychological ailments, including an American who swims in the waters to continue his recovery from a terrible road accident, and a charismatic English businesswoman who had a double mastectomy just before filming began.

Ultimately, the film is a heart-warming, often humorous celebration of eccentricity and sheer bloody-mindedness as these unusual people, united by a shared passion, meet to take on whatever the weather… and life… throws at them.

The Ponds has been an indie sensation at the UK box office. Opening in one London cinema in January it has now screened more than 160 times around Britain, with 50 sold out shows. Appealing just as much to non-swimmers as swimmers, its success has been almost entirely based on social media outreach and word-of-mouth recommendations. The BBC recently acquired its UK rights and it screened on BBC Four in May 2019.

 ⭐⭐⭐⭐The Ponds is ‘full of uncomplicated happiness’ – The Guardian

KEY CHARACTERS

Tom Kearney: A former high-flying US mining executive who was run down and put in a coma by a bus on Oxford Street in 2009.

Chris Ruocco: The 72-year-old chairman of the Highgate Lifebuoys and an old-style tailor from north London. Chris has swum at the ponds since age 10.

Carrie Longton: We meet the founder of www.mumsnet.com a day after she enters the water following a double mastectomy and reconstruction.

Genre: Lifestyle, Society

Duration: 74mins or 59 mins

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