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Parents' Guide to


By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Drama about drug smuggling has mature themes, language.

Movie NR 2021 128 minutes
Swallow Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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Kids say: Not yet rated

The subjects in Swallow would make anyone cry -- poverty, sexual harassment, drug dealing, systemic corruption -- but the movie and all the characters are flat and emotionless. People are either talking loudly or in a monotone, but nothing feels real, nothing seems to come from the heart. Perhaps it's because so many in the cast are non-actors. The result is two hours of valuable material -- oppression of the poor, downwardly-mobile lives, religions taking advantage of rather than helping the needy -- wasted in a drama-less social drama. Scenes dribble on far too long. Logic eludes most of the characters. People say nothing when they ought to speak up and when it no longer makes sense to speak, they go on and on. A woman is sexually assaulted by her boss but she says nothing, allowing others to gossip that she's having an affair with her superior. Weeks later, she files a complaint against him and is threatened by him and his disapproving underlings. A woman meets a man, asks his address, and out of the blue shows up at his home. They speak to each other as if they have no interest in each other and without a hint of flirtation he offers to pay for her rent and buy her clothes. A woman invokes African gods to curse her employer and her problems disappear. How?

The one theme that emerges -- far too late -- is that the film's most intelligent character finds her voice and finally starts to call it as she sees it. Perhaps the English subtitles are translated badly. Perhaps the cultural habits and customs of Lagos in the 1980s cannot be understood by Americans of the 2020s. But one thing is sure -- the movie doesn't get interesting or even seem to reflect any kind of emotional truth until a good 85 minutes in. The last 45 seem the most real, but it would be hard to imagine an audience sticking with this that long.

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