THE SWERVE, which had its world premiere at the Cinepocalypse Film Festival, is a film directed and written by Dean Kapsalis, that dives into the intricacies of depression while leaving no comfortable ground for the audience to find its footing. However, that’s the point. Depression is not something to glorify. It is an uncomfortable, unsettling beast that finds its way through your skin until its seeping out of your pores. As the topic of much exploration in the film, I do advise that those who do struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts not watch this film until they find themselves in a more secure headspace. Speaking as someone currently undergoing a major depressive episode, there were many moments that I myself had to pause because certain moments on screen felt like they almost were replicated from my brain. To be blunt, this movie fucked with me.
We first meet Holly (Azura Skye), a high school teacher who is also the glue trying to keep her household running smoothly. She’s busy providing emotional labor for her husband (Bryce Pinkham), who is fervently working to acquire a better position at his job to help the family make ends meet. She also has her hands full dealing with two very unhelpful teenage sons. To add on top of her stress, she has a beautiful sister (Ashley Bell) who does anything she can to stir up drama and pour salt in wounds. However, the event that starts to push Holly off the edge to tumble down is when she meets two boys on a road. Things take place that ultimately ends up weighing heavily on her mind, forcing her to lose sleep and start to see things that may not be entirely in her mind.
Part of why THE SWERVE is so powerful is primarily due to the powerhouse performance that Azura Skye. As Holly, she seems to have everything together on the surface. However, it isn’t long before we pick up on the stress she places on herself to do what is required of her while also watching the facade of her life crumble gradually throughout the film. This is delivered with powerful subtlety by Skye, who makes you want to reach through the screen and hold her while her mental sanity is deteriorating. Even when she does reprehensible things to a child, it is difficult to admonish her because we’ve clearly followed her on the journey her mind is taking up to that point.
However, THE SWERVE could not succeed without the well-crafted story by director and writer Dean Kapsalis. The story itself is one we are familiar with. A woman seems to have a perfect life, but that turns out to be false. However, the emphasis on the transformation one undergoes when depression, anger, fear, anxiety, etc., all come together to swallow a person whole, a person who has no one to genuinely turn to or confide in, is done in a way that is executed beautifully. The decision to keep certain scenes short and simple helps to mimic that feeling of snapshotting from one task to the next, almost mimicking that idea of floating aimlessly through life. The usage of foreshadowing and symbolism in the script also did not go unnoticed and actually helped to soften the blow for me personally when the film approached its tragic climax.
Overall, THE SWERVE is an immensely powerful, yet uncomfortable film that will shake you to the core. The handling of the subject of depression is subtle, reflecting an in-your-face realism that will be hard to turn away from. However, I would also say that the handling of the subject is done with respect that one doesn’t typically find in films that cover such a subject. While I find myself debating whether or not this film is horrific enough for horror movie fans, I think the subject of depression featured in this film is real and impactful enough that it would be a disservice if lovers of the horror genre turned away from it.