In The Swerve, Holly (Azura Skye) is a middle-aged housewife dealing with an unappreciative family and a redundant, repetitious life. She appears sad and deadpan, with what my shrink would describe as a “muted affect.” Her day consists of waking her husband Rob (Bryce Pinkham), taking her meds, feeding her bratty kids (Liam Seib and Taen Phillips), taking them to school, and then spending the workday as an English teacher for uninspired teens. Then home, to bed, and it all repeats.
The kids squabble, the husband is bucking for a promotion, and everything on the surface looks like a typical 1950’s tale of domestic normalcy. Except for that deadpan and the long, Lynchian silences that make this a humdrum, repetitive existence.
After a while, this repetitive pattern starts to crumble as things outside of Holly’s control begin to affect her. There is a mouse in the house and she is bitten, and fears rabies. Paul (Zach Rand), one of her students, is caught making pornographic drawings of her and clearly is nursing an inappropriate crush. And her husband seems to be having an affair with her sister (Ashley Bell), who torments her with accusations of eating a whole pie and lying about it when she was a fat kid.
When Holly leaves an awkward family confrontation and drives into the night, she is followed by drunken dudebros honking their horn and trying to intimidate her off the road. We see closeups of her bandaged finger and hear dramatic strings like the ones we heard when she confronted the mouse, and she … swerves.
She wakes up in her living room with her family staring at her. We learn about what happened later.
This movie is well-acted, particularly Holly, whose desperation and depression underline every scene. Unfortunately, this makes most of the empathy the viewer has turn into a simply depressing film. Mental illness is treated as a curse, and life is clearly not worth living. Both her and her sister, and by implication, their mother and grandmother, have mental illness, though only Holly seems really beaten down by it, though she seems to be the only one seeking therapy and treatment.
Oh, and by the way, content warning: Suicide.
I won’t disclose the ending, but it’s really the only interesting part of this film, though it perpetuates the stigma of the mentally-ill being dangerous (long disproven: mental illness increases risk of being the victim of violence, but does not increase the risk of being violent compared to the average human).
The scenery is grim and gray, the characters are universally unlikeable, and while well-made, the film keeps raising the question for me: who is this for? What enjoyment or edification is intended? I think there are filmmakers and other artists who work to make their audiences uncomfortable, but I feel that if there’s no payoff on the other side of it, this is merely masturbatory creation. And a sad one at that.
4 out of 10 bloody bandages