Fantasia begins! Mild spoilers ahead.
The opening film for the Fantasia Film Festival is ideally a very iconic genre film that represents an ideal selection of what’s to come. Although Sadako fits that description, I would also argue that a typical movie in Fantasia is often atypical and mold-breaking. That is how I decided to go against type and pick Swallow as my personal opening film. Yes, it is disturbing and provocative but I couldn’t help but be completely swept away.
Swallow is written and directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis. It is the story of a young woman named Hunter (Haley Bennett) who has married a successful executive named Rich (Austin Stowell). Rich is going up in the world, thanks in no small part to wealthy and overbearing parents who make sure the young couple has everything they could wish for. Hunter takes it all in meekly, trying to always be grateful and never call attention to herself.
When Hunter becomes pregnant, it seems life couldn’t be better… Or does it? Hunter’s quietness seems to convey something repressed. While everyone is ecstatic about the pregnancy, she has this furtive glances that betray something bubbling under the surface. Her control of her own life is slipping from her and being pregnant is now like the walls closing in. You get all this from the quiet yet powerful performance of Haley Bennett. Her semblance of self is disappearing until she takes it upon herself to do something unexpected, something drastic. Something as crazy as taking a marble, putting it in her mouth, rolling it around and letting it slip down her throat.
I found the film extremely enthralling. I can’t help but enjoy the movie, as much as it portrays a character with an extreme disorder. Hunter is willing to put her life in the line as she literally swallows objects that can hurt her and her pregnancy. But I couldn’t help but be completely engaged in the film. When an audience is aghast of what is happening in the screen and completely quiet even when the movie is quiet, you can tell the filmmaker has managed to draw everyone in. I know I have to attach the label of disturbing but you can’t help but empathize with Hunter as she tries to regain some control of her own person. Deep inside her own conscience wants her to break free and as messed up as her reaction-compulsion becomes, you can’t judge her for it.
Highly recommended with one obligatory reservation that I hate to include. This is a beautiful movie. It has beautiful cinematography and amazing shots. The story is not beautiful, it might be too disturbing for some. The performance of Haley Bennett alone is worth the ticket, but I have to put in the one reservation because some people will find it too strong. Pica is a genuine disorder, and whether or not it is given its fair share and truthful depiction I can’t really say or judge. I can only judge the movie for the way it chooses to portray this individual story, and I found it powerful and moving. Obviously, this one is not for the casual viewer. You have to decide for yourself if this is the kind of film you’re willing to ingest.
That will do for now.