Swallow @ Fantasia

Control or lack thereof has brought about many a mental health issue. Combine that with a terrible past which you have not reconciled with and you have the basis for director/screenwriter Carlo Mirabella-Davis’s (The Swell Season) film, Swallow.

Now, you might be thinking something very dirty based on the title of the film, but you could not be further from the truth…well, there is a scene of eating dirt but that is for later.

On the surface, Richie (Austin Stowell – Bridge of Spies, Whiplash) and Hunter (Haley Bennett – The Girl on the Train, Marley & Me) seemed like the perfect young married couple. He has just gotten a new and prestigious position at his father’s (David Rasche – Burn After Reading, Men in Black 3) company, his parents have bought them a luxerious new house and Hunter has discovered she is pregnant with their first child.

But if you look beneath the surface and not too far in all honesty, you will find large schisms in their marriage. Richie treats Hunter like a possession though he claims to love her unconditionally. The pressure she feels to be perfect has brought her to a behaviour which is not normal or healthy.

Though Richie and his family go through the motions of “helping” his wife, including hiring a man (Laith Nakli – 12 Strong, The Wall) to watch over her constantly and to find her a psychiatrist (Zabryna Guevara – from television’s New Amsterdam) who will just report everything to him, her best intentions are not what he truly has in his heart. It is merely for show and to keep up the family reputation. Even the perfect wife has her breaking point.

Everything about this film is rather disturbing. From the treatment of Hunter to her past to what she resorts to in order to deal with things. Swallow is a truly uncomfortable watch. And yet one in which you won’t be able to turn your eyes from.

Yes, this is a thriller. Don’t discount it merely as piece of entertainment though. It contains a message. A strong message. About women and our place in society. What society still in 2019 expects of women. The role we are expected to play especially in the upper stratospheres.

All this is accomplished in a film that is also about a serious psychological issue. While it does make up most of the shock value of the film it is merely a means to an end here. Rather than fully examine it or get into the debate about how dangerous it is, the disorder is a way to make us squirm and then direct us towards what in our society leads to women being afflicted with it. All the more powerful.

Speaking of powerful, the ending of the film features a rather brilliant and poignant twist. Now, twists rarely work. Most of the time they are annoying and leave a bad taste in the viewers’ mouths, but when they work…oh boy! If your mind is already whirring at a great clip due to the first 70 minutes then the final 20 or so will blow it completely. As well as break your heart.

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