Swallow Fantasia 2019 Featured

Fantasia 2019: Swallow Review

This disturbingly-premised drama makes for a compelling character study with amazing production value.

Swallow is directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis, stars Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, The Girl on the Train), and Austin Stowell (Whiplash), and follows a controlled pregnant housewife named Hunter, who gains an unhealthy addiction for swallowing dangerous objects.

There’s no way around discussing the absolutely insane premise of this one, and that’s what easily sold me on it. Premiering at Tribeca a few months ago, I had heard vicious things about this one. apparently, someone fainted at a screening for it during an early scene that involves a thumbtack.

While I found that Swallow was not afraid to hold back when it came to the disturbing nature of its subject matter, I was relieved after seeing it to find out it doesn’t simply exist to shock its audience with gratuitous amounts of gore. There is so much more under the surface of this one, and at the end of the day, it’s a compelling drama over anything else.

Haley Bennett’s performance here is incredible. From the get-go, the audience learns that she’s in a pretty awful relationship with her husband. It’s explained that she was swept off her feet from working in retail into his incredibly wealthy family. In return of that, they essentially get to control her life and give their opinions on all her life’s decisions. I found this commentary on the upper-class in America to be quite compelling, given the fact that the film utilizes Hunter’s addiction as a coping mechanism to a life she feels trapped in. Bennett’s emotional beats are fascinating to watch because her character keeps it together for the majority of the film, and those few moments you get to slip through the cracks and see who she really is are incredibly rewarding.

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Other than Bennett’s performance, the biggest compliment I can give this one is the fact that you’d never know it wasn’t produced by a studio. The way Mirabella-Davis uses this film’s budget gives it incredible production value. The locations the film is shot in (mostly Hunter’s forest mansion) are gorgeous, and Katelin Arizmendi’s cinematography (who previously worked on last year’s Cam, as well as It Comes At Night which I have similar thoughts about) make this truly look like a studio budgeted film. I’m shocked this hasn’t been picked up by *any* distributor.

While the film is quite short, clocking in at 94 minutes, I found the pacing to be too slow at some points. While I never felt a sense of negative repetition or redundancy, some plot points take too long to get to. As well, the tonal shift in the third act feels too jarring and displaced from the first two-thirds of the film.

Swallow is a great character study. I found that it’s a balance between a compelling genre with some more sadistic, violent elements to mostly work. While I can’t recommend this to anyone with a weak stomach, it’s definitely a good conversation piece with a striking ending.

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