Mental illness is a subject that is often explored in movies, but rarely as raw and successfully done as in Writer/Director Dean Kapsalis’ (Jigsaw Venus 2000) The Swerve. The film stars a fragile, nearly stripped to the core Azura Skye (One Missed Call 2008) as Holly, a woman who slowly unravels as the story goes on. Her clueless family isn’t much help. Cheating husband Rob (Bryce Pinkham: Mercy Street TV series), self-absorbed son Ben (newcomer Taen Phillips), and shy son Lee (Liam Sieb: Henry Danger TV series) are busy taking as much as they can from Holly and giving very little in return. Her sister, Claudia (Ashley Bell: Carnage Park 2016 – read our review here), is a walking nightmare, adding past emotional abuse to Holly’s list of problems.
Her husband (Pinkham) is self-involved, her sons are brats, her students can’t be bothered, her alcoholic sister (Bell) mocks her, and even her own mother (Deborah Hedwall: Alone in the Dark 1982) berates her and puts her down. This is Holly’s daily existence.
The title The Swerve refers to an incident earlier in the film where a car following Holly too closely accidentally runs off the road and has a fatal accident. Or was it a dream? We are never really sure. But the title could just as easily refer to Holly’s “swerve” away from sanity. But with the all the pressure coming at her from all sides, I’m not sure that I can blame her.
This is, by no means, an easy film to watch. As someone with family members and friends who struggle with severe mental illnesses, I can attest to the painful accuracy of The Swerve. Azura Skye is phenomenal in her role. She is both fragile and blindingly righteous in her wrath when she feels she has been wronged. It’s truly a remarkable performance. I have previously only seen her acting in American Horror Story: Murder House, and that role never prepared me for the range she shows here. Skye is the one who will keep you watching the film when you may want to give up.
The Swerve is a gutsy, relentless, tough to watch film, but the performance of Azura Skye alone makes this one a must see.