REVIEW: “SWALLOW” (2020) IFC FILMS

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Not sure why IMDB had this noted as a horror/thriller and have since changed it as to be clear, this is not a horror film, but yes, it is a thriller of sorts. But please don’t go in expecting horror movie from “SWALLOW” as it’s clear Director Carlo Mirabella-Davis never meant it to be that. It’s more of a psychological drama mixed in with mental health, mixed in with a wife coming into her own. ‘Swallow’ truly fascinated me as I’ve never seen a movie like it and as strange as the film was, I was never bored.

‘Swallow‘ is a study of our main character Hunter (Haley Bennett), and a really good one at that. Hunter is a newly pregnant housewife who finds herself in marriage to Richie (Austin Stowell), one in which his parents feel she married above her stature in life. Richie is the youngest director at the firm that his father Michael (David Rasche) is in charge of and his mother Katherine (Elizabeth Marvel), is what one might want to call a ‘socialite’. Hunter – who is constantly and condescendingly reminded from the three of them that she is not from the same class as them, so she feels out of place. This film highlights profound consequences of trauma and what is clearly a form of PTSD and how it affects some mentally as Hunter – not really knowing who she is or what she is supposed to do, she starts to eat things – as in non-food items. It starts with a marble and then progresses to things that are much more dangerous like thumbtacks and batteries. When she goes to have an ultrasound her they begin notice all is not normal and find the foreign items inside which are removed by an emergency surgery. This infuriates Richie and his family to no extent, though they play the blame game more than anything and never try to find out why, they just want her to stop. They don’t understand she doesn’t know why she’s doing this and are embarrassed by her. Yet when having a dinner party pretending all is well and wonderful, Hunter finds out he has shared everything with those he works with and is beyond upset with him. She is also taken to therapy as well as having Luay (Laith Nakli), a male nurse, to take care of her but it’s more like he is there to watch her every move to make sure she doesn’t start eating household items again.

Be very clear here though as when Hunter is swallowing things, it has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to endanger the child as she really wants the child. The bigger issue rising within that we begin to see was that she hates being a housewife and the biggest issue of all, that she doesn’t know who she is in relation to her past. It’s a poignant way to showcase the point that even if you have everything of what so many people aspire to get – a handsome, successful husband, a big beautiful house, wealth, marriage, and not having to work etc., that it far from guarantees happiness. Her life completely encompasses the age old adage of “Be careful what you wish for”.

Acting wise you have to give major props to Bennett as she makes every scene gripping. On the outside she looks like an a pretty blonde without a care or thought in the world, but there’s something vulnerable about her and in her eyes you can see she is hiding some dark, ugly and sad secret. You really come to understand her motivations and why she does what she does. Stowell seems like the perfect husband on the outside, but we get glimpses that he’s really isn’t and he does well at portraying both sides. Marvel and Rasche do well and portray the overbearing, snobby parents very believably. And Nakli as the male ‘nurse’ will give you not only a great performance, but a wonderful backstory and surprise as well.

Overall, I adored the acting, story, and cinematography, again it’s a little strange maybe but oh so fascinating. A warning to some though, this films ending is very decisive and I can see what happens at the end might be a hot button for some, for me it was perfect where it went and is definitely empowering her as a woman. 

Grade: B

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Review screening: Courtesy oIFC Films

“SWALLOW” IS STREAMING ON TO HULU

REVIEW: “NEWS OF THE WORLD” (2020) Universal Pictures

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Adapting a beloved book can be a tricky thing and Paulette Jiles“NEWS OF THE WORLD” is no different a challenge to that here. But if we have learned one thing from films all these years, it would be that Tom Hanks would be the one who would be able to pull this off and make it along with Director Paul Greengrass, taking full advantage of our faith in Hanks acting abilities here.

In this visually phenomenal film version Tom Hanks is Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Civil War veteran who takes newspapers and then travels from one small town to another and for 10-cents admission and a sense of panache’- Kidd reads the news stories to weary people looking for a distraction. While traveling one day, he comes across a blonde hair-blue eyed young girl dressed in Native American wear who speaks no English, only Kiowa. With her caretaker having been lynched in front of her, the papers Kidd finds among her things are notes that she is 10-year-old Johanna (Helena Zengel), a young girl who’d been raised by Kiowa tribe and is now being returned against her will to her natural German aunt and uncle of whom she knows nothing about.

The film is all about the journey, which the captain undertakes with the girl reluctantly as the she rebels against this so hard at first, his conundrum is realizing the only guarantee of her safe return is if he takes her, and reluctantly we watch as the Captain agrees to accompany her on the journey home. In the long run it bares down to essentially being: two people, a wagon and two horses, driving through the vast nothingness. And as the two encounter numerous precarious situations along the way they begin to bond with each attempting to learn the others ways and language. Along the harrowing journey, encountering moments of true danger in almost each town they enter and every new territorial line they cross. Early on when they are cornered by a trio of swarthy men who want to ‘buy’ the girl, the tense build up that prevails and follows us throughout the journey can be dramatic and even terrifying at times, but eventually this is what will bring them together the closer as they come to the end of the journey and the pointed note of separating.

Zengel doesn’t say much throughout the film, but she has a wonderfully expressive face that speaks volumes with her eyes and it’s easy to believe that she has seen horrors. And even though this undoubtedly adds to Hanks’ performance, even as she’s saying nothing, her pain, her fear is palpable and Hanks plays well on this attribute. But make no mistake whose film this is – as the way Hanks portrays Kidd is the sort of performance that just seems written in stone for him and it’s a perfect vehicle for him and surprising in sorts to see him in a Western. There are numerous supporting cast who also help push the film along with Elizabeth Marvel, Mare Winningham, Ray McKinnon and Bill Camp to name a few. The movie itself is stirring despite there being no surprise in knowing where the story is headed once Johanna appears – and yes there are some grim sequences but overall its quite an enjoyable watch.

Grade: B+

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Review screening: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“NEWS OF THE WORLD” IS OUT ON CHRISTMAS DAY IN THEATERS/DRIVE-INS WHERE AVAILABLE AND ON NETFLIX IN JANUARY 2021