Swallow is one of my favorite films of 2020. I know that some of the elite Film Twitter farts got to see it early. But, this one has been floating around the periphery of my attention for most of the year. Why? Well, because it’s a modern harrowing take on Pica.
Haley Bennett manages to break out of the supporting roles in bigger films to dominating as the lead in this quiet indie release. I’m sure not everyone thinks they’re going to bust out in a movie about eating the inedible, but Swallow is about so much more than Pica. It’s about what it means to lose control in an environment where you are meant to have none.
Pica is something that has been ingrained into my brain for some time. Mainly, because I’ve met 4 people with it. Whether it’s through direct contact or acquaintances, the practice has stuck in my brain for ages. There is a school of thought that wants to push the disorder away from the DSM 5 and look at cultural practices and dietary needs. What’s peculiar is when you consider one of the underlying principles behind classifying the actions of Pica. The action itself must be considered abnormal for that stage of development.
So much of Swallow is about how newly pregnant Hunter is monitored by her in-laws. Katherine, Michael and her husband Richie crack down on her in various ways. But, Hunter takes steps that go above and beyond them. Whether it’s a marble or sharp object, each item ingested is a little treasure that they can’t take from her. The pregnancy symbolism can be thick at times, as the film keeps making a point of Hunter fighting the in-laws over her baby.
What makes Swallow so insanely fascinating is the utter rejection of motherhood. Most of Hunter’s fears in the movie are tied to her lack of knowledge about her real father. Well, she meets birth daddy and he drops knowledge of how she came to existence. This only drives Hunter deeper down her quest to take her life back by any means necessary. Seriously, the final scene hammers that home with the kind of gut punch usually reserved for 70s cinema.
Swallow is the kind of movie that I love is being discovered during the Pandemic Quarantine. IFC has been releasing some killer releases over the last few years that have been getting upstaged by a crowded marketplace. Now, the home arena has become the great equalizer of on demand entertainment. While America might be in love with white trash and tigers, I ask you to supplement your viewing with this film.
Certain points of the movie will clear a room. But, those that stay and observe what Swallow has to offer will be floored by everything presented. Haley Bennett does the kind of work that should already be getting Awards talk. But, the Western world is shut down. Do your part and keep talking about this one with your friends and family.