Runtime: 1hr 35min
Director: Carlo Mirabella-Davis
Stars: Haley Bennett, Austin Stowell, David Rasche, Elizabeth Marvel, Laith Nakli
By Peggy Marie
Not sure why IMDB had this noted as a horror/thriller and have since changed it as to be clear, this is not a horror film, but yes, it is a thriller of sorts. But please don’t go in expecting horror movie from “SWALLOW” as it’s clear Director Carlo Mirabella-Davis never meant it to be that. It’s more of a psychological drama mixed in with mental health, mixed in with a wife coming into her own. ‘Swallow’ truly fascinated me as I’ve never seen a movie like it and as strange as the film was, I was never bored.
‘Swallow‘ is a study of our main character Hunter (Haley Bennett), and a really good one at that. Hunter is a newly pregnant housewife who finds herself in marriage to Richie (Austin Stowell), one in which his parents feel she married above her stature in life. Richie is the youngest director at the firm that his father Michael (David Rasche) is in charge of and his mother Katherine (Elizabeth Marvel), is what one might want to call a ‘socialite’. Hunter – who is constantly and condescendingly reminded from the three of them that she is not from the same class as them, so she feels out of place. This film highlights profound consequences of trauma and what is clearly a form of PTSD and how it affects some mentally as Hunter – not really knowing who she is or what she is supposed to do, she starts to eat things – as in non-food items. It starts with a marble and then progresses to things that are much more dangerous like thumbtacks and batteries. When she goes to have an ultrasound her they begin notice all is not normal and find the foreign items inside which are removed by an emergency surgery. This infuriates Richie and his family to no extent, though they play the blame game more than anything and never try to find out why, they just want her to stop. They don’t understand she doesn’t know why she’s doing this and are embarrassed by her. Yet when having a dinner party pretending all is well and wonderful, Hunter finds out he has shared everything with those he works with and is beyond upset with him. She is also taken to therapy as well as having Luay (Laith Nakli), a male nurse, to take care of her but it’s more like he is there to watch her every move to make sure she doesn’t start eating household items again.
Be very clear here, though, as when Hunter is swallowing things, it has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to endanger the child as she really wants the child. The bigger issue rising within that we begin to see was that she hates being a housewife and the biggest issue of all, that she doesn’t know who she is in relation to her past. It’s a poignant way to showcase the point that even if you have everything of what so many people aspire to get – a handsome, successful husband, a big beautiful house, wealth, marriage, and not having to work etc., that it far from guarantees happiness. Her life completely encompasses the age old adage of “Be careful what you wish for”.
Acting wise you have to give major props to Bennett as she makes every scene gripping. On the outside she looks like an a pretty blonde without a care or thought in the world, but there’s something vulnerable about her and in her eyes you can see she is hiding some dark, ugly and sad secret. You really come to understand her motivations and why she does what she does. Stowell seems like the perfect husband on the outside, but we get glimpses that he’s really isn’t and he does well at portraying both sides. Marvel and Rasche do well and portray the overbearing, snobby parents very believably. And Nakli as the male ‘nurse’ will give you not only a great performance, but a wonderful backstory and surprise as well.
Overall, I adored the acting, story, and cinematography, again it’s a little strange maybe but oh so fascinating. A warning to some though, this films ending is very decisive and I can see what happens at the end might be a hot button for some, for me it was perfect where it went and is definitely empowering her as a woman.
Review screening: Courtesy of IFC Films
“SWALLOW” IS NOW STREAMING ON TO HULU