cinewise

Swallow

2019 | Dir: Carlo Mirabella-Davis | Wri: Carlo Mirabella-Davis | USA, France

Screenshot from Swallow

Is it a drama or a thriller? Dramedy has been bandied about a lot, but not sure if there is a combo-word for this type of film. Perhaps because it’s so difficult to maintain the two in balance. Whatever it is, Swallow is a remarkable film.

Haley Bennett is Hunter, a quiet young woman with a penchant for cooking. She is married to the very wealthy Richie, who is more interested in his shirt-and-tie combinations than his wife. They are living in a wonderful modern home in upstate New York. That’s pretty much it in terms of what happens. Oh, and she also gets pregnant, which is of course great news — in the words of Richie, “we’re pregnant”.

But Hunter also suffers from pica, a disorder that makes her eat objects (the compulsion usually stems from iron deficiency and can occur during pregnany, apparently). What starts off as a single glass marble, which she dutifully cleans off after defecation to exhibit it in a ever-growing, morbid line-up, quickly turns to sharper and bigger objects. The film doesn’t shy away from the violence this brings up, but it’s never shown to glorify it either. When an ultrasound shows numerous objects (including an AA battery) inside her abdomen, Richie and his parents get involved. Predictably, they are trying to take control of the situation (she’s carrying the future CEO of their company) and slowly begin the process of imprisoning her to make sure she doesn’t do anything stupid. This imprisonment starts figuratively and slowly becomes literal.

Writer-director Carlo Mirabella-Davis reveals (in an awkward manner, I must add) why Hunter might be resorting to this compulsion — well, Hunter can’t help it, but I guess Mirabella-Davis is trying to give a valid reason for her actions. Not sure how I feel about that, but I guess it was necessary for Hunter to finish her arc. The ending is quite esoteric and, unfortunately, a little anti-climactic. But Bennett is absolutely fantastic in the lead role and the film has a slight Giorgios Lanthimos feel to it, which is always a plus for me.

It’s not perfect, but it’s borderline great.