One beautiful summer's day in Connecticut, middle-aged Ned Merrill unexpectedly drops by the house of some old friends as they're having a pool party. During their conversation about various mutual friends in their suburban neighborhood, Ned realises that the pools in their various backyards form a "river" leading directly to his own house, and decides on impulse to "swim" his way home by taking a dip in each pool. As he travels from house to house, however, it gradually becomes apparent that not everyone is pleased to see him, and that Ned's charming, enthusiastic outlook might be concealing the fact that things have gone terribly wrong for him...
Provides examples of:
- Ambiguous Disorder: Ned's inability to remember certain things about his life raises questions as to whether or not he's fully sane.
- Creator Cameo: John Cheever is briefly glimpsed in one of the party scenes along with his wife Mary.
- Downer Ending: The film ends with Ned alone outside of his empty, abandoned house, in the middle of a raging storm.
- Empathic Environment: The further Ned gets into his journey, and the more it becomes clear that his life is falling apart around him, the worse the weather becomes. By the time he reaches his empty, abandoned house, a storm is coming in.
- Noodle Incident: We don't learn the precise details of what happened to Ned before he showed up at the first house, and he appears to have blocked it out of his own mind, but it's heavily implied that at some point he's lost his job and money, his wife's left him, and his daughters have been getting into trouble with the law.
- Stepford Smiler: It's gradually made clear that Ned is this.
- Your Cheating Heart: One of the houses he arrives at is the house of his mistress. She's not pleased to see him. Probably because she's actually his former mistress.
- Walking Swimsuit Scene: Ned spends most of the movie dressed only in swimming trunks.