Swallow – A desperate attempt to gain back control
Swallow is a movie with beautiful cinematography, well thought out story, amazing acting and deep meaning! Director Carlo Mirabella-Davis does an excellent job developing the characters and unraveling the psyche of the main character, Hunter.
Hunter is the perfect wife, always making sure the house is in top condition while also cooking a gourmet dinner upon her husbands arrival home from work each day. Dressed in summer dresses that look like they are from the 50’s she is displayed to be the perfect ideal housewife. We witness Hunter clinging to every loving remark that her husband Richie (starred by Austin Stowell) makes towards her. We also see her breaking apart little by little for every time she feels she has disappointed him.
It’s not a modern relationship by any means, as Hunter is constantly reminded of how lucky she is to be part of this wealthy family. She even asks her husbands permission in order to plant flowers in “their” garden. Desperate to fit in with her husbands picture-perfect family she pretends to be happy, but as an audience we see her feelings of isolation grow bigger and bigger.
The facade comes crumbling down
We realize early on that Hunter has to put up a facade of happiness and good behavior in order to fit into her husbands flawless, rich family. She is constantly serving him, reassuring herself of his love and declaring her devotion to him. But we soon start to see her feelings of being undeserving come to light, constantly feeling like a failure despite many attempts to please her husband. The facade is starting to crumble.
When Hunter learns she is pregnant her husbands immediate reaction is to call his mother, still not paying attention to Hunter. It was supposed to be her special news, her big moment, her chance to be special. Even when she’s delivering the biggest news of her life she can’t keep her husbands attention on her. She can not feel special. So in her mind, she must not be special. The feeling of isolation and not having any control is now unbearable – and so Hunter starts to swallow things. Pica now comes to life.
And so the swallowing begins
On the bridge of panic Hunter holds a marble in her hand, contemplating whether or not to follow the urge of swallowing it. Giving in to the urge she feels an immediate sigh of relief, joy, and most importantly – control. Her compulsion for swallowing objects grows stronger and more risky for each day, displayed by the several objects on her mantelpiece. Pica has now been developed, a disorder that causes an irresistible urge to ingest inedible objects. The riskier it is the more her sense of control seems to grow. So does the feeling of being special. No matter what she did she was never able to prove her worth, prove that she is special. Now she finally has something that is only hers, something that makes her feel in control and special, a secret only she knows.
The best advice anyone ever give me was “Fake it till you make it.”
Are you a faker or have you made it? Are you happy or pretending to be happy?
“I’m sorry?” Hunter asks, shocked by the question her mother in law asked. “Are you happy or are you pretending to be happy?” We see Hunter’s eyes tear up and cheeks turn red as the tries to quickly compose herself and answers “I’m happy.”
Swallow, facing stigmas about mental health issues.
There are so many awesome breadcrumbs in this movie, I can’t begin to cover them all. The Director did an absolutely amazing job placing out clues that would lead us to fully understand and relate to Hunters compulsive disorder. Hunter’s mother in law asking her if she is pretending if she is happy? The hired Syrian nurse Luay, who tells Hunter “If you were in war, you would not have this problem of the mind.” displaying the stigma we have in our world regarding mental disorders being a “luxury disease”. But in the end Luay comes around and turns out to be the only one who understands her, besides us. All of Hunter’s surrounding family members lack any understanding, yet we as an audience are fully submerged into Hunters psyche and feel deep empathy for her.
Swallow is not a horror movie, I don’t understand where this came from, the abortion scene perhaps? Jez, I’m so happy for the Director and cast that they got the R rating instead of the NC17 rating over that. I’m a huge horror movie fanatic, but this is not it. That said, this movie is something else entirely. A twisted dramatic thriller perhaps. Swallow kind of resembles “In my skin”, which portrays a woman who becomes increasingly fascinated over her flesh, self-mutilation and dreadful cannibalistic. While I love “In my skin” Swallow definitely does a better job of making you feel for and understand the protagonist.
Moving, thought provoking and absolutely stunning
Carlo Mirabella-Davis reveals in an interview with Entertainment Focus that his grandmother was the inspiration for the story. A 1950s homemaker stuck in an unhappy marriage and who also developed several compulsive rituals.
She was an obsessive hand washer who would go through four bars of soap a day and 12 bottles of rubbing alcohol a week. I think she was looking for order in a life she felt increasingly powerless in.
His grandmothers obsession went so far that she ended up in a mental institution. Once there she received electroshock therapy, insulin therapy and a forced lobotomy. The lobotomy rendered her without any sense of taste and smell.
Having it be a personal matter to Director Carlo Mirabella-Davis is perhaps what made the movie and character so relatable. Swallow really moved me with both Hunter and her disease presented in a very thoughtful and realistic way. The movie is thoughts provoking, thrilling and visually stunning!
Swallow really moved me with both Hunter and her disease presented in a very thoughtful and realistic way. The movie is thoughts provoking, thrilling and visually stunning!
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