FILM REVIEW: THE SWERVE is an unflinching look at a woman past the point of no return.


Writer/director Dean Kapsalis and star Azura Skye give us a haunting portrayal of a woman lost past the point of a nervous breakdown in this unflinching psychological horror chronicling a wife’s descent into madness.

It’s hard to tell what is real at times in writer/director Dean Kapsalis’ debut film THE SWERVE, opening this week on VOD, and starring Azura Skye as a housewife trapped in an inescapable rut. Skye plays Holly, a woman suffering from mental illness which she keeps at bay with medication, but whose life is the very definition of the mundane, punctuated by an uncaring family which views her as housekeeper and chauffeur and little more than that past a nuisance they have to endure. A rut where every day is the same and the highlight is hoping her husband (Bryce Pinkham) might get a promotion to regional manager of the grocery store chain where he works all hours of the day and night claiming he is doing inventory. She is largely ignored by the high school students where she teaches English, save for one student Paul (Zach Rand) who doodles nude drawings of her during class. Her family views her with disdain, with her perpetually-in-rehab sister (Ashley Bell) looking to embarrass her at any given opportunity. Holly sees a mouse in her house which bites her while trying to grab her shoe and her husband seems non-plussed and wonders whether it’s even worth getting an exterminator for a tiny little mouse that only bothered her.

All these slights and insults build into a ball of resentment within Holly. A ball that explodes when she is cut off on the highway by a pair of rude teenagers which culminates in the titular swerve of the film. From this point forward, it starts to become difficult to tell the real from the illusory. As Holly struggles to tell whether the swerve happened, she becomes unable to sleep. Her guilt and anger grow unchecked and the person she was grows more and more disconnected from the mundane reality of the rut she lived in. She becomes convinced her husband is cheating on her. When she finds Paul’s erotic drawings of her, she takes it as an opportunity to act out sexually against the illusion of her dead marriage to tragic consequences. All of this builds tension and dread through Kapsoulis’ unflinching lens as we see Holly’s ultimate solution to her deteriorating state lead to the most tragic consequences of all.

The Swerve is not an easy watch. It’s a character study of a wounded human cowed into submission who acts out from the darkest of circumstances. Skye’s performance in this milieu is fascinating. She channels Holly’s repressed rage with deft; we can see the small, fragile human on the verge of cracking into shards. But we can also see the vibrant, desirable creature that Paul imagines making love to in his drawings. The film’s final shot is haunting given its juxtaposition with what has comes before and really lets you see the tragedy that has come from it all. But it’s to Kapsalis’ credit and Skye’s performance that the film’s darkness isn’t unbearable. In some ways, it is reminiscent of American Beauty, minus the voiceover and dark humor, but just as potent a look at the human condition and what a damaged human is capable of leaving in their wake. It’s a haunting piece and portrayal and one that will stay with me for quite a while.

The Swerve is an excellent debut feature from Kapsalis. His direction and script inspire a truly engrossing performance from Skye, who controls the screen whenever she is in frame, much in the same way that Elizabeth Moss did so in Alex Ross Perry’s Queen of Earth and Her Smell as similarly broken women dancing on the edge of destruction. Zach Rand’s Paul also shines as the small beacon trying to keep her from crashing on the rocks to no avail. This is truly a human story of everyday horror and one that will stay and haunt you.