Swallow Film Review: Visually Stunning And Incredibly Jarring

We have to say kudos to writer/director Carlo Mirabella-Davis on his first narrative feature film “Swallow” which paints a terrifying picture of life for a housewife who is tormented by her past, deeply unsatisfied, and suffering from a very dangerous type of mental illness.

Hunter, brilliantly played by actress Haley Bennett, is the portrait of the perfect housewife. She cooks, cleans, and is always eager to please her obnoxious husband Richie, played by Austin Stowell, but what we learn over the course of the film is that things are not always as they appear. Soon Hunter’s facade of living the perfect life begins to crumble, as secrets from her past begin to surface and she develops a mental/eating disorder called Pica, which causes her to want to eat dangerous non-edible items such as marbles, push-pins, batteries and even at one point a screwdriver.

This disorder leads to Hunter putting herself in a very dangerous cycle of self-harm to which her husband and his equally terrible parents show zero sympathies. She is a woman trapped and stuck in a cycle of emotional abuse with no clear path in which to escape. During the first scene where her Pica disorder is shown, Hunter places a marble in her mouth letting it roll around and click against her teeth and as she swallows, she has a bit of a smile, and for the first time in this endless monotony of being forced to be the perfect and obedient wife, she feels as if she has gained some level of control.

This condition does not bode well for her, as she is pregnant and the baby she is carrying is set to be the heir to the family fortune. Once an ultrasound reveals the contents within her stomach, all hell breaks loose within the family and Hunter every move is then monitored and guarded. The film then switches gears as we learn more and more about the secrets of Hunter’s past and it then becomes a tale of one woman’s attempt to gain back control over her own mind, body, and spirit.

Visually the film is absolutely stunning as the remote local of Richie and Hunter’s glass house on the hill feels stark and cold with no level of warmth, however, the outside world is lush with sprawling forests, a river, and rolling hills. There couldn’t be a better metaphor for showing just how trapped Hunter has become in this world.

Again, we cannot say enough just how well actress Haley Bennett did at expertly capturing the many layers to Hunter’s personality. She expertly peeled back the curtains just enough for us to get a peek at Hunter’s inner turmoil from time to time before slipping directly back into a poised and emotionless housewife.

While the film overall did reach a somewhat satisfying conclusion, we were still left with a few unanswered questions which are why we found the film to be particularly jarring. We did not learn much about Hunter and Richie’s backstory, such as how they came to meet and marry, and Hunter’s over-eagerness to please him leaves us wondering about what types of emotional trauma she may have endured from him in the past, as we never see him get physically abusive with her in the film, however mentally, that is a completely different story. It also leaves us wondering if over the course of the film that Hunter cared at all about the health and wellness of her unborn child. Was she trying on purpose to harm the baby or terminate the pregnancy subconsciously?

We may never find our answers to these burning questions but without a doubt “Swallow” was a poignant look into the life of a woman trapped in an abusive situation and suffering from a dangerous mental illness. The film took things to the extreme ending on a rather controversial note however we feel that Mirabella-Davis succeeded with the story that he was trying to convey.

 

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