Swallow offers us no tension, no dramatic scenes, no twist and shout. There is something about how Afoloyan directs his film that draws us more into the steadiness rather than explosive thrills.
This review of Netflix film Swallow (2021) does not contain spoilers.
Kunle Afoloyan is back with a social issues drama based on Sefi Atta’s novel with the same name, Swallow. The film is dropping on Nigerian Independence Day on Netflix on October 1st. Sefi Atta was actively involved in writing the screenplay, a rare case for most novel adaptions. Kunle Afoloyan is known for casting non-actors for his previous work. The same thing happens with Swallow. The movie stars Nigerian singer Eniola ‘Niyola’ Akinbo, Ijeoma Grace Agu, Kelvin Ikeduba, Omotunde Akinbowale, Eniola Badmus, Chioma Akpotha, and Deyemi Okanlawon.
Swallow tells the fallout about a naive secretary, Tolani (Eniola ‘Niyola’ Akinbo), who becomes involves in drug smuggling with her streetwise friend, Rose (Ijeoma Grace Agu). The film starts with Tolani narrating her story as she comes back home in distress. Sets in the 1980s, where the various event takes place in Nigeria. From FIFA World Cups to Nigerian drugs smugglers and illegal cases are soaring high due to the increasing poverty, trades, and transportation. It captures the rhythm of the city of Lagos while diving into the depth of Nigerian culture and lifestyle. From the cinematography, the color scheme and how the camera works to the newspaper, fashion, and electronic devices are set to fit the 80s. But some props and dialects remain too artificial for the 80s.
Further than drug smuggling and trafficking issues, it brings up diverse social issues such as misogyny, poverty, and the patriarchal system. For 128 minutes long, the story is far too stretched out. There are a lot of filler scenes and conversations that do not add things to the plot. It’s taking us longer to reach the main conflicts. But perhaps it is intentional. If we look at it from the leads’ point of view, rather than focusing on the outcomes, the story emphasizes more the process that finally pushes Tolani and Rose to make their decisions. It’s like we’re watching a real-life situation unfolding in front of our eyes. That is what makes Swallow enjoyable for me. It is raw and genuine.
Swallow offers us no tension, no dramatic scene, no twist and shout. There is something about how Afoloyan directs his film that draws us more into the steadiness rather than explosive thrills. For non-actors, Akinbo did a decent job at portraying Tolani. Of course, there’s a lack of diversity and intensity in emotion, but she does deliver her lines naturally. To add in, her chemistry goes well with Ijeoma Grace Agu, who is a scene-stealer in this one! Agu’s presence balances Akinbo well and adds more pump into the story. Rose as a character is simply the most memorable one for me.
In the end, Swallow is hard to swallow because it’s the reality that our world is facing.
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