It has been a long time since I have cupped my mouth with both hands during a movie. Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ new picture Swallow, is a grotesque, harrowing, beautiful, and tastefully depicted drama about a woman with Pica disorder. Here is a brief recap:
Newly wedded and recently pregnant with the incredibly wealthy Richie, Hunter falls into a stupor, unable to force herself to be happy. Her in-laws are indirectly puttering her down at every interaction, and the weight of her responsibility as a wife begins taking a toll. One day Hunter decides to swallow a marble, and the pain is washed away. Not understanding her condition, and constantly giving into her impulses, she starts swallowing more dangerous objects. During an ultrasound, she is rushed into an emergency surgery where several sharp objects are removed from her throat and stomach. Her husband and in-law family are less than understanding as she begins recovery for her newly diagnosed condition. While becoming more and more depressed, Richie tries to have Hunter committed to an asylum until their baby is born, but Hunter runs away before they can take her. She indulges once more, then confronts a horror from her past before she aborts her child and begins a new, freer life for herself.
The director doesn’t do much to uplift the audience by the end of the film, but it sure is a relief. This movie, whether it’s the subject matter or the palette, offers a unique feeling of dread that cinema doesn’t often feature. Carlo Mirabella-Davis has–like a magnet– abruptly drawn and appended the title of bravura filmmaker to himself.
This picture would not be so intense without the breakout Haley Bennett. Her lead drags the rest of the cast by their unsuspecting ankles the whole way. The dialogue is focused, not always spot on, but with the expression Bennett brings to the screen, we can feel the unrelenting pain plaguing her throughout.
The story is special, rare, but the script itself could use a lot of work. The dialogue doesn’t seem thought out or useful. It was difficult to understand the drama of several moments because the words seemed so robotic, but overall this issue can be overlooked because the cast is so savvy.
This film looks beautiful, but a lot of sophomoric tone-building techniques become apparent very soon into the film. The central framing of Bennett is very consistent and works to nice effect, but there isn’t a lot of originality in the photography.
The soundtrack is solid, though there isn’t a lot of original music. The atmosphere of frustration, loneliness and that sickly yearning can be attributed in majority to the musical moments of the film.
Swallow is a tour de force. I find it hard to recommend this picture to the average movie-watching audience, but if you exact yourself even a fraction of a notch above that crowd, you should definitely see this picture. From it’s honest, careful depiction of a serious mental disorder to it’s riveting performances, I give this film a three out of five.