Starring: Haley Bennett, Austin Stowell, Elizabeth Marvel
Director: Carlo Mirabella-Davis
Running Time: 94 mins
Swallow is an American film about a newly pregnant housewife who develops an obsession with swallowing dangerous objects, leading her family to take measures that take control of her life.
A film that grabs you interestingly with its totally bizarre premise, Swallow fails to follow up on its intriguingly strange ideas with genuinely gripping drama, proving a largely disappointing tale that could have been so much more emotionally resonant.
There’s a good amount to praise and criticise about this film, but let’s start on the bright side by talking about Haley Bennett’s lead performance. Quiet, unassuming and wonderfully likable, she’s a captivating presence through the whole film, even when the story is far from enthralling.
Bennett is wholly believable as a sheltered and confused housewife whose new dangerous obsession begins to consume her entirely. Her story is one of trying to break free from ever-tightening shackles in her life, and Bennett’s seemingly innocent outward appearance blended with a clear fire inside makes that element of the film’s main character fully convincing.
There are times when Bennett perhaps isn’t able to capture the real emotional distress that the film is trying to put across, and in tandem with co-stars who aren’t quite on her level, you never find yourself in awe of the most moving on-screen performances.
And that’s one of the issues that really makes Swallow fall down. Unable to convert its odd premise into a genuinely emotionally resonant story for the majority of its runtime, its slow pacing feels unwarranted and ultimately frustrating, with a lack of dramatic urgency that in short makes the film a rather dull watch.
Admittedly, things do turn up in the third act as the story takes quite a dramatic shift, but for the majority of the first two acts, there’s little genuine intrigue, mystery or even horror at what should be a really distressing story.
The film’s main themes of oppression and looking for a semblance of control and freedom in the face of it are without doubt interesting, but I felt that director Carlo Mirabella-Davis wasn’t able to bring those themes to the forefront of the story, instead leaving the film’s admittedly sleek style as the centre of attention.
You could say that Swallow is a little bit too much style over substance, but I think it’s more a lack in substance that hurts the story, rather than excessive style. Compared with the equally bizarre Raw, Swallow never manages to bring its stranger ideas and deeper themes together in fully convincing fashion, often coming across as an intelligent but unfortunately disjointed film.
There are positives to take from this film, namely its unique premise, a good lead performance from Haley Bennett, and engaging themes. However, it’s mostly a disappointing watch, failing to turn its unorthodox ideas into a genuinely gripping story, proving a dragging and largely frustrating watch throughout. So, that’s why I’m giving Swallow a 6.5 overall.