Film Review | Swim Low (2016)

Film run-time: 9 minutes | Starring Alexandra Tse, Wendy Dines, Kelci Stephenson
Written and Directed by Amanda Ann-Min Wong, Produced by Ryan Nesbitt, Assc. Produced by Rebeca Ortiz

Swim Low“, a 2016 short film by Amanda Ann-Min Wong, is a refraction of memories flooded by the possibility of the supernatural; a reality of grief that is cloaked by the pall of a nightmare, that clouds sound judgment and threatens to engulf an already heavy heart. Alison, a young swimmer who had lost her mother, experiences visions of an ethereal afterlife when she holds her breath underwater.

Interpreted as a tangible enactment of depression, Wong’s film is a powerful statement of the literal depths of a despondent mind, where the weight of an unfathomable sorrow can drown out all traces of reason. Metaphorically, the aquatic imagery can be likened to a collected sadness, like a sea of tears that draws Alison deeper into suffering and, as it is later seen, potential suffocation.

Drawing on Alison’s nanny, Hua, as the remaining matriarch who can stand to break her trance, it is revealing that love is not always wanted, nor necessarily reciprocated. Brushing her hair with affectionate patience, Hua may have imparted a wisdom that ultimately saves Alison’s life: although Alison may wish to fulfill the love of her mother by joining her, the best course may chart otherwise.

Coming to terms with death, and finding closure amid the specter of near-death, Alison is able to break free of a downward cycle of illusion. In recognizing the value of life and an irreducible need from the living, “Swim Low” affirms a statement of vital importance—although there is woe in loss, its romanticized solution is ineffectual in a world of dependency, one that demands utmost cogency and participation.

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