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Film / Swallow

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Swallow is a 2019 psychological drama-thriller film starring Haley Bennett and Austin Stowell. It was the directorial debut of Carlo Mirabella-Davis, who also wrote the film.

Bennett plays Hunter, a young housewife from a working-class family who lives an idyllic, picturesque domestic existence with her lovely upper-class husband Richard (Stowell) — or at least it seems that way looking in.

In reality, Hunter is deeply unhappy; her marriage is loveless, and people hardly listen to her or even see her outside the role of the subservient housewife she has fulfilled.

As a defence mechanism-cum-escape, she develops an impulse to consume inedible objects. As the compulsion grows more intense, and the physical and relational ramifications more severe, Hunter must confront the truth behind her obsession.

Mirabella-Davis based the premise of Swallow on his grandmother's struggles with OCD; the film's production designer, Erin Magill, cited Safe and Rosemary's Baby as influences on the film's look. The film premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival before receiving wider releases in France and the USA throughout early 2020.

This film provides examples of:

  • Bastard Angst: Hunter clearly lacks any love from her mother or technical stepfather, because she is a Child by Rape that, it's implied, her mother would have aborted given half the chance.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Hunter's husband Richie on the surface seems like a nice, caring husband; however, he is soon revealed to be a verbally abusive Jerkass who talks down to his wife whenever he's mad at her. He is also not very loving and supportive to her which is a driving force that leads to Hunter's disorder.
    • Richie's parents don't fare much better than their son.
  • Child by Rape: William Erwin raped Hunter's mother; due to the family's religious views, the mother being unable to abort led to Hunter being born.
  • Creepy Souvenir: At one point, Hunter takes to collecting items that she has successfully swallowed and passed, having recovered them from the toilet.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: While not perhaps the happiest ending per se, Hunter finally breaks free from Richie and realizes she doesn't need him and she finds closure with her dad who tells he is not ashamed of her. By the final scene, Hunter is clearly on a better path to her life than the life she had before.
  • Eat Dirt, Cheap: At perhaps her lowest point emotionally, Hunter, having fled her abusive spouse and in-laws, holes up in a motel and obsessively chows down on soil while watching TV.
  • The Fundamentalist: Hunter's family are implied to be from this background.
  • Gilded Cage: Pretty much sums of Hunter's marriage. While on the surface it appears to be the idyllic domestic life, it soon becomes clear that Richie and his parents are horribly controlling people who only provide for her if she fulfills their exact role for her.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: During one of her therapy sessions, Hunter reveals that she was a product of rape and her mother was barred from terminating the pregnancy due to her family's right-wing religious beliefs. In a significant break from her traditionalist life, she ends up aborting her own pregnancy at the end of the film.
  • Heel Realization: Erwin, who raped Hunter's mother and is Hunter's biological father, tells her at the climax that he thought of himself as a god when he had committed the act. He said he felt that way until receiving a beating in prison, which caused injuries severe enough to require a colostomy bag. Erwin tells her that that experience made him realize what a terrible person he actually was and subsequently became remorseful for what he had done.
  • Housewife: What Richie and his parents are trying to mold Hunter into, complete with vaguely anachronistic fashion. Hunter very much tries to conform to this role, but finally has had enough when she can no-longer ignore their cruel and controlling treatment of her.
  • Jerkass: Richie is a horrible verbally abusive, uncaring husband.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: As bad as they may be, Richie and his parents are not entirely wrong to be angry at Hunter's disorder and take many of the precautions and treatments they did, due to it being a serious threat to the health of the baby and Hunter's own life.
  • Madness-Induced Omnivore: Hunter develops the real-life disorder called pica, which causes the compulsion to swallow non-food objects. It develops slowly starting with a relatively harmless glass marble, but becomes increasingly harmful as she graduates to sharp objects, like thumb tacks safety pins, and even a small screwdriver.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: Hunter worked retail and was a Starving Artist before she married Richie, who provides for her.
  • Nice Guy: Luay seems to be the only primary main character that is truly sympathetic to what Hunter is going through. Luay even ends up helping Hunter escape from Richie and his family near the end.
  • Secret Snack Stash: A dark variety. Hunter sneaks a bag of metal objects after Richie and Luay hide anything easily accessible that she can swallow. She ends up hiding it under the wall-mounted toilet.