IFC Films
Reviewed by: Tami Smith, Film Reviewer for Shockya
Grade: C+
Director: Carlo Mirabell-Davis
Screenwriter: Carlo Mirabell-Davis
Cast: Haley Bennett, Austin Stowell, Elizabeth Marvel, David Rasche, Laith Makli, Denis O’Hare
Release Date: March 6th, 2020

The protagonist of Swallow has an unusual eating habit. Nothing gives her more satisfaction than being curled up in bed with a good book, and eating the printed page or vacuuming the living room rug, finding a small sharp object and swallowing it. She has a Pica disorder, a condition which may lead to surgical intervention.

This lucky gal is Hunter (Haley Bennett), a suburban homemaker, married to Richie (Austin Stowell), a good looking man who works at his father’s firm. Hunter’s aim is to make Richie happy while Richie’s is to give the family business an heir. During Act I Hunter keeps asking Richie: “Are you happy?” while he keeps replying “I am the happiest man in the whole world.”; “I just want to make sure I am not doing anything wrong” she says, to which he replies: “You could not do anything wrong even if you tried”. At one point, during this Stepfordian dialog, spectators may want to shout: “Hey Hunter, this is the twenty-first century not the nineteen-fifties; Wake up”. But, alas, she does not wake up until Act III, after being pestered and looked down upon by her Father-in-Law Michael (David Rasche) and his wife Katherine (Elizabeth Marvel).

Director and screenwriter Mirabell-Davis gives Swallow’s plot a déjà vu feeling of centuries past when women were happy to “marry-well”, do housework and take care of the children. “So what did you do before you met my son?” asks Katherine. “Retail mostly” replies Hunter”. “Are you happy or are you pretending to be happy”? continues Mother-in-Law, thus letting Hunter know that she is aware of the latter’s gold-digging intentions.

After Hunter becomes pregnant and takes a sonogram, the results show the content of her stomach with an unborn child and a bunch of small objects, curtesy of Pica. She is rushed to the operating room, provided with a therapist, Alice (Zabryna Guevara), who does not recognize patient/doctor confidentiality, and gets a male-nurse/body guard, Luay (Laith Nakli), who never leaves her sight.

I found Swallow’s plot dated and unconvincing. Act III shows a change in Hunter which is not believable and is premature. Her meeting with Erwin (Denis O’Hare), her biological father, does not make logical sense and the pay-back is in the single digits.

Acting in Swallow exceeded my expectation, since performers had to work with one-dimensional roles. Haley Bennet excels in the dated role of Hunter, portraying a shy, soft-spoken suburban wife whose functions in the marriage are ornamental and biological. Austin Stowell presents husband Richie as an average conformist eager to please his parents. The roles of Hunter’s in-laws are written in a cookie-cutter format with Elizabeth Marvel, as Mother-In-Law Katherine, giving a silly speech about the mind-body connection. David Rasche, in the role of Father-In-Law Michael, presents a profit oriented character who wants to see tangible results even when talking about psychiatric treatment. Laith Makli stands out in the role of Luay, Hunter’s body guard, who came from war ravaged Syria. He plays a person out of place among the suburban elite. Denis O’Hare delivers a supporting performance as Erwin, Hunter’s biological father. His calm demeanor and speech do not match the circumstances or make sense.

Katelin Arizmendi’s cinematography shows a beautiful suburban house, in upstate New York, with a large pool and blue/gray furniture accentuating the spiritual emptiness of its inhabitants.

Some of the plot’s aspects may be personal for director Mirabell-Davis but I found its content hard to swallow!

94 minutes Rated: R © Tami Smith, Film Reviewer

Story: C
Acting: B
Technical: B+
Overall: C+

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