• James Rutherford

'Swallow': A Fascinating and Unsettling Psychological Drama About a Woman Suffering From Pica


Movie poster for the film Swallow starring Haley Bennett and Austin Stowell

Swallow (2020) is a fascinating and deeply unsettling psychological drama starring Haley Bennett as Hunter, stay-at-home trophy wife to Richie (Austin Stowell), a wealthy capitalist. While Richie is busy preparing to become CEO of his father’s corporation, Hunter lives a life of frustrated isolation in their rural home, socially constrained and unduly scrutinized by the often callous Richie.


One day Hunter discovers a marble in her home and impulsively swallows it, experiencing a profound sense of personal satisfaction—and continues to swallow objects such as thumbtacks and batteries over the coming days. When she becomes pregnant, however, a routine ultrasound identifies foreign bodies in her abdomen and she is rushed into emergency surgery. Successful in the operating room, Hunter's doctors diagnose her with Pica, a psychological disorder characterized by a yearning to consume inanimate objects. Her newly disclosed ailment horrifies Richie, with great concern for his unborn child, and he recruits a Syrian immigrant named Luay (Laith Nakli) to serve as her caregiver—though Hunter’s condition remains far from alleviated.


Written and directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis in his feature film debut, Swallow is an utterly hypnotizing depiction of psychological distress. Bennett delivers an absolutely flawless performance as the aggrieved Hunter, whose seemingly inexplicable compulsions slowly reveal deep-seated denial and personal trauma. As alarming as it is profoundly intriguing, it's a stunning depiction of repression and ultimately, tenebrous personal liberation.

 

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