STARRING: HALEY BENNETT; AUSTIN STOWELL; DENIS O'HARE; ELIZABETH MARVEL
DIRECTED BY: CARLO MIRABELLA-DAVIS
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
They are a week apart, but The Invisible Man and Carlo Mirabella-Davis' new film Swallow would make an excellent double feature. Two films, about two different women, both struggling with different forms of unfair and toxic treatments that men put on women in society. An interesting similarity between the two films is that the horrors are not always visible. Haley Bennett stars as Hunter, a beautiful blonde that looks like a throwback from a Hitchcock picture. Cleaning their isolated mansion, wearing a puffed up dress and tending to a meal, all so it can be ready for husband Richie (Austin Stowell) when he arrives home from work. This is what is expected of Hunter, but when that unwanted, hidden pressure becomes too much, Hunter calls out for help by swallowing various objects she finds around the house. The items are relatively small, a marble, a tiny chess piece, but then they become more dangerous, sharp objects that are as bad going in as coming out. It's a cringe inducing, slowly developing drama, that won't go down smooth, but it will captivate you. Swallow is one awesome and intensely jagged little pill.
There is a scene halfway through Swallow, Hunter is asked by her mother-in-law Katherine (Elizabeth Marvel) if she is faking her happiness. Her response is as bad of a fake smile someone could give and it entirely sums up the films central theme. Nothing about this family, nothing about this life is authentic, and no matter how much Richie tries to turn Hunter into a Stepford robot, he will never understand her, never give her the respect she deserves. She is surrounded by a phony gloss, a house that looks eerily similar to the home in Parasite, a husband that was given his job by daddy, and a relationship that never has earned the love that Hunter gives. It's fake and Hunter will do, or swallow whatever she can to get out of it.
The first two acts of Swallow set up our characters and the pain that Hunter puts herself through. There's vomiting, visits to a therapist, choking, more objects being consumed. The third act involves Richie trying to get help for his wife, never thinking about her, but thinking about what she is putting him through. Yet, what writer/director Mirabella-Davis shocked me with, is the unraveling onion and depth to Hunter's character. We think we know exactly what she is going through, the tortured wife is not a new story concept, but with each mask removed, we learn the history of Hunter, something her husband clearly never took the time to understand. Swallow is not just an intense picture of curiosity, but a film that draws us into the isolation, the internal struggle of a one-sided marriage, which leaves you wanting to hug Hunter for days.
On top of the films strong direction from Mirabella-Davis, the work by Haley Bennett is a revelation. The actor has been put in second-fiddle roles such as The Girl on the Train, The Magnificent Seven, and The Red Sea Diving Resort, but here is where she makes her name known. There is a quiet reservation to her approach, which tip-toes on the line of humanity. Her portrayal as Hunter is a mixture of sadness, humor, and fierce independence. Swallow is a big gulp of a movie. It will have you twisting, turning in your seat, and your stomach in knots. It certainly is filling.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady