Reviewed by: Robert Munro

"Anya's performance as Alice does enough to keep the film interesting throughout." | Photo: Courtesy of EIFF

Ewan Morrison's 2007 debut novel Swung announced a major new talent on the Scottish literary scene, but the film adaptation doesn't quite capture the intimacy of the book.

David (Owen McDonnell) and Alice (Elena Anya) are a relatively happy 30-something couple, living in Glasgow, except for one thing. He can't get it up. David's impotency causes strain in their relationship, one which Alice hopes may be solved with a detour into the world of swinging. There is the potential to play this for laughs, and occasionally the film indulges such temptation, particularly in its first scene.

However the film is undoubtedly on stronger territory when it explores the awkward swinging encounters, the vulnerable intimacy captured in the looks between David and Alice. Each looking at the other thinking: how far will we take this? David is unemployed and has a soon-to-be ex-wife and young daughter to consider, while Alice's job is also under threat and she wonders how serious David is about commitment.

There are plenty of changes from the novel, though that isn't in and of itself a bad thing, Yet the shift of nationalities from the Scottish/American couple in the book to the Irish/Spanish in the film does undercut some of the novel's subtext, which detailed how difficult relationships can be when you feel lost in the global hurly burly of the modern world. In the book David and Alice often root themselves, or find solace, in a line from an American movie, or pop song - as Alice's television production company becomes part of a large American conglomerate.

The film also doesn't completely translate the novel's sense of place; the Glasgow depicted here feels nothing more than a backdrop. Only some of the gallus Glaswegians encountered within the swinging scene represent something of the city. Visually the film succeeds when detailing some of the more x-rated moments, such as David and Alice's trip to a Burlesque show; or the delirious hotel corridor, behind every door of which strangers ravish each other to their hearts' content.

Swung is less successful in capturing the everyday moments, however, with conversations between David and Alice often feeling flat and overly-expository, not aided by their overly-lit, soap-opera look. Yet Anya's performance as Alice does enough to keep the film interesting throughout, with her quiet determination masking her own, less visible, insecurities. Had there been more of a focus on Alice's journey the film's ultimate resolution may have felt more satisfying.

Reviewed on: 23 Jun 2015
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A relationship is taken to its emotional and sexual limits.
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EIFF 2015

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