Swallow

Carlo Mirabella-Davis, USA, 2019

Because this film is billed as a horror/thriller and was showing as part of Sitges Film Festival, I was expecting things to go a bit strange and alternative reality for rich-but-bored housewife Hunter, who develops a compulsion for eating odd and dangerous small objects like drawing pins and batteries. A bit Rosemary’s Baby, perhaps.

But it turned out to be examining deep past psychological trauma, and in the end it was emotionally very hard-hitting indeed. It was so well done: Hunter is sweet and shy and kooky. Likeable, but at first we don’t really understand her problems and her behaviour is just a bit weird. As the film goes on, we get to know the kind of false, controlling situation she’s in and – like her burly war-hardened Syrian minder – are on her side. So much so, her final defiance prompted a round of applause from the audience.

The film handles her gently, with plenty of space visually and sonically, and also gives attention to the detail of her experience, her everyday world. It’s physically intimate too. Literally. Blood and guts and shit. Though delicately done. Her insides (that she is so determined to damage) feel precious. And when she confronts her past trauma face-to-face? Gripping. Deep down, turns out she is a very brave young woman.

It was great to be at the festival, too! One year, I’ll take a week off, get me a lanyard and spend all day watching films.

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