The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
The trailer for The Swerve had me extremely invested. It looked like an intense, psychological thriller. The family looked like your typical suburban set – a husband and wife who were having difficulties making ends meet, and two teenage boys who weren’t interested in being around their parents. That was, until a car accident shook up their routine.
This was the first feature length film for writer and director Dean Kapsalis. The directing was spectacular, and you would never have known this was his first offering. The camera shots were eerie and communicated the main character Holly’s descent into ruin. Kapsalis focuses on giving you barely enough information to keep you invested in the story. At times, we aren’t even sure if what we’re seeing is truly happening. Kapsalis does an excellent job of dropping subtle hints and slyly conveying that the main character can’t be trusted. He shoots Holly from increasingly disturbing angles and is able to convey Holly’s trouble with mental illness in a very real and gripping manner.
Had I gone into this movie knowing nothing about it, I probably would have been better off. The car accident happens early on in the movie, and I thought that would be the main focus of the plot. That assumption was incorrect. That is merely a passing incident that contributes to Holly’s downward spiral. From the start, Holly struggles with insomnia and a variety of other mental illnesses that are never specified. She begins to act in ways that are contradictory and at times dangerous. She has a rough family history, in particular a strained relationship with her sister Claudia. These tough times are revealed drop by drop as we attempt to piece together what is real and what is simply imagined by Holly. The culmination of all of these imagined or very real events leads to a heart stopping ending.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The acting in The Swerve is phenomenal. Azura Skye as Holly takes on the majority of the scenes and puts in a powerhouse performance. Her physical appearance lends itself well to Kapsalis’ unsettling camera angles. Her face is angular and her pale skin is enhanced to hold a pasty quality that exemplifies the sense that she’s unwell. Her physicality blends well with her performance. She oozes a heavy tiredness in every scene. Holly’s husband Rob (Bryce Pinkham) is admirable in his role. Pinkham comes off as both likeable and semi-untrustworthy which is a difficult feat. Claudia (Ashley Bell) is a large presence on screen as Holly’s alcoholic and somewhat unstable sister. You view people through Holly’s experiences, which makes things difficult because she’s an unreliable protagonist. But the performances combine to make compelling characters and an intriguing story.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Do Not Watch 'The Swerve' Expecting To Get Answers
This a lower budget psychological thriller so there isn’t much in terms of visual effects. The make-up on Holly was amazing. She quickly descended into a pale, sickly version of herself. But that’s the only item that stands out for The Swerve. The focus is more on experiencing things as Holly does, rather than any type of design elements.
The Swerve (2020) | VOD
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The music, score, and sound design were all adequate. There wasn’t a lot of opportunity to showcase these elements. The music was appropriately eerie when necessary and added to the tension and mysterious quality of the scenes. Other than that, the sound didn’t contribute all that much to the movie.
The Swerve was not what I thought it would be. The movie was a deep dive into a woman’s battle with mental health and the people in her life who both helped her and contributed to her downward spiral. Do not watch The Swerve expecting to get answers, because you will be sorely disappointed. The confusion and murkiness is part of the point of the movie, and embracing the fact that you will be puzzled will help you enjoy the movie. If Holly doesn’t even understand what is happening to her, why should we?