11 January 2021 | RMurray847
Interesting movie that fails to truly impact the viewer
As the title and cover image suggest, this film is about a young woman with the unusual psychological condition of pica, which compels her to swallow non-food items, including some pretty dangerous stuff. That makes the movie immediately interesting, but unfortunately, the pica feels more like a hook to make us watch a more conventional movie about a "young housewife" whose domestic situation is dreadful and how she reacts to it.
Hunter (played very well by Hayley Atwell...best thing about the film) is recently married and lives in a BEAUTIFUL house along the Hudson River. Her handsome husband works in the city, and it busy and successful and only pays sporadic attention to her. He's affectionate at times, distant at others times and in yet other times, he is alarmingly nasty to his bride. (I have no idea how these two could ever have met. I can't envision what circles she moved in that overlapped with his...unless he specifically went looking for a "nice, slightly dim girl" to take care of his house and give him children without complaint.) And to make her even more miserable, she has very condescending, opinionated in-laws. (And her own family may not have been great either.) All-in-all, her existence is unhappy.
So she copes by giving in to her compulsion. So it's a domestic drama colliding with a movie about pica. And it doesn't really work. If it's a domestic drama, the characters in her circle are too one-dimensional and unlikeable to really be believable. Hunter is sympathetic (to a degree...she is sometimes SO lackluster as to be borderline boring as a character) and everyone around her is a cardboard villain. If it's a move about pica, we really never learn much about it. She has a terrible therapist and clearly doesn't get the help she needs. The film nicely shows us how her need to swallow dangerous objects is a deep compulsion and how awfully it impacts her physically (a couple of moments are certainly cringe-worthy) but we get no true insights into this disease.
I guess, in the end, I would say SWALLOW strained credulity just a little too much. Not because of the course of her disease...I assume it does cause self-destructive behavior like we're shown, but because of the poorly developed secondary characters. They don't behave like fully flesh-out people, but rather like caricatures. And these caricatures don't always behave in convincing ways. Certainly, we root for Hunter to "win" against the forces aligned against her...but I wouldn't say I was invested in the outcome. It's an interesting movie, but one I only recommend to viewers looking for something different and ambitious (and don't mind seeing that ambition come up short).