Netflix’s Swallow (2021) Review: Social Drama Falls Flat

Swallow is a social issues drama film directed by Kunle Afolayan and is based on the novel by Sefi Atta. The movie stars Eniola ‘Niyola’ Akinbo, Ijeoma Grace Agu, Deyemi Okanlawon and has a runtime of 128 minutes.

Netflix describes the movie as:

Waylaid by life’s pressures in 1980s Lagos, Nigeria, Tolani becomes involved in drug smuggling with her streetwise friend and must face the fallout.

– Swallow review does not contain spoilers –

First and foremost, Swallow takes place in the 1980s and the movie makes it a point to let us know that this does not take place in the 2000s. Newspapers, homes, clothes, everything is reminiscent of the 1980s. However, the movie also falls flat in an air-tight depiction of the era. It’s so weird.

After Swallow 2021 starts, we are introduced to Tolani and get to know that she has gone through many hardships. Then there is a long moment where lead Eniola ‘Niyola’ Akinbo gives us a voiceover that sounds flat and insincere. That’s one of the biggest problems with Swallow – it doesn’t take any of its topics to heart. Much is lost somewhere along the way and nothing really stays with you after the movie ends.

Swallow is just such an insufferably boring movie. For most of the movie, nothing happens and when it does, it is far too late to make an impact. Moreover, scenes that should have stuck with us or created lasting impressions come and go without making a fuss in our minds. That’s sad for a social commentary movie.

Thins just happen, they come and go for no reason and had the creators cut some of them out Swallow would’ve been a shorter movie, probably with a crisper narrative. However, that’s not the case. The movie just flows jaggedly and drones on and on without much impact, totally taking you out of the experience.

You sit there listening to different people talking behind each other’s backs and being very judgemental. I mean, I guess it makes sense to show that everyone is nasty but the scenes are extended so much that it makes no sense in the long run. We get to know about a shocking revelation at the end, but even that doesn’t have an impact on us because they don’t show it properly and don’t put too much importance on its effects. Even though the film seems to have relied on this ending, things just seem fine and dandy at the end. So what was the purpose of introducing the tragedy?

Eniola Akinbo playing Tolani does a decent job at portraying her character. She feels real and her problems and difficulties are believable because of her acting. The supporting cast is fine too. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t do a good job of giving something worthwhile for them to work with.

Summing up: Swallow

Swallow is a movie that focuses on deep issues in a surface-level manner. It attempts to get it all right, but the effort falls flat and the experience suffers. Skip this one.

Swallow is streaming on Netflix.

Also Read: Netflix’s A Sinister Sect Colonia Dignidad Review: A Chilling Account of Abuse

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Swallow is a movie with a lot to say but doesn't know how to say it.


  1. I totally disagree with this rating. I would give it 4 Stars. I enjoyed it very much and I can remember all the scenes. By the way this is review is a self opinion.

  2. I disagree with this rating as well.
    Swallow is a really good movie. It paces well with the setting and theme and so many scenes are locked in on my mind.
    Kudos to Kunle Afolayan for the onscreen interpretation of the book.

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