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Swallow(2020).


Rating: wait till the end to see!

A ‘sickly’ interesting film.

'Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.'

Berthold Brecht.


There is a lot to be said about films which choose not to immerse us in their soft narratives but utilize disgust and discomfort as a vehicle for their messages. Swallow (2020), directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis, is one of those films.

It follows a young woman named Hunter, who marries into this aristocratic, American family. She then realises that she is pregnant, to her disappointment, and shortly after develops a strange tendency to eat inedible and harmful objects (such as pins, batteries and soil). This condition, known in the medically as PICA, reveals the psychological tensions Hunter struggles with. Tensions with her self-autonomy, worsened by the circumstances surrounding her birth, linger throughout the film and are heightened by the events towards the end.


IMPRESSIONS: I immediately sympathized with Hunter as she seemed to just be an accessory in this hyper-American, elitist life. She obviously had very low self esteem and it was clear no one around her really valued her as they should have. Her husband was psychologically abusive, mainly ‘in his neglect’ but sometimes breaching into verbal abuse. At the same time, this film’s ultra-Brechtian style made it hard to fully align yourself with the interests of one character. The way Haley Bennet (Hunter’s actress) chose to portray the character, with a subdued, worrying quietness and a constant whisper tone, was somewhat a double-edged sword, evoking pathos while reinforcing a clinical distance from the viewer.


DISLIKES/ LIKES (to understand this more watch the enclosed YouTube video): I felt like this film didn’t know what it wanted to be. I don’t mean this in reference to generic attachments, but the general unclarity that governed this film’s narrative. Ambiguity is a clear mark of independent, “art” films but I don’t think the ambiguity in this film was intentional. I think it wanted us to understand the ending and form opinions about Hunter’s past meekness and present self-autonomy, but for some reason the pieces didn’t really fit, and I left feeling like this film had not really done what it wanted to do. Though there were things I liked about this film, the aesthetics, the architecture and the originality in concept, I felt this sense of confusion, which some people liked, restricted me from really engaging with the elements of this film I otherwise would have celebrated.


OVERALL: This film is a personal experience You either really love this film, are uncertain about it or hate it. Personally, I’m in the uncertain place, hence found it hard to give this film a distinct rating. However, based on the reasons given above, I’d give Swallow (2020) a 6.5/10.




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