Alex Heeney reviews Lindsay Mackay’s second feature film, The Swearing Jar, an existential crisis film with two romances.
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There’s a scene in Patricia Rozema’s Mouthpiece (2018), in which Nora Sadava’s Cassandra explains to her divorced and depressed mother that the end of a marriage doesn’t have to mean the end of her romantic life. “People have lots of relationships,” she says. It’s something I thought about a lot during Lindsay Mackay’s funny, heartbreaking, beautiful new film, The Swearing Jar, about love, grief, and second chances. Though The Swearing Jar is technically two romance stories told in two interwoven timelines, it’s much more about how the protagonist, Carey (a wonderful Adelaide Clemens), navigates her own pain and insecurities. That feels radically different from how these stories are usually told, but in line with the recent trend towards stories about women coming of age in their thirties and forties.
Like Mouthpiece (and 2020’s Sugar Daddy), The Swearing Jar is a stealth musical since Carey is a disappointed singer-songwriter and current music teacher. Almost all of the music in the film is written and sung by the character, like Sugar Daddy, offering insight into her inner emotional turmoil which she otherwise struggles to articulate. The film begins and ends with a concert Carey is performing for her husband, Simon’s (Patrick J. Adams), fortieth birthday. Kate Hewlett’s excellent script, based on her play, keeps the exact details of what happened to him vague, if easily guessable, for much of the film though something has upended her life. We surmise from the start that the concert that she’s processing her feelings through song, accompanied on guitar by a handsome man, Owen (Douglas Smith), who at the very least seems to have a tendre for her.
This is an excerpt of a full-length review of The Swearing Jar, which will be published at the film’s Canadian release in October 2022.