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#TIFF22 Review: The Swearing Jar (Contemporary World Cinema)

September 11, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2022 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8th to 18th.

The second feature from Canadian filmmaker Lindsay MacKay, following her very good (and equally memorably titled) debut Wet Bum, The Swearing Jar is an ambitiously structured romantic drama that grabs us right from the opening scene; a performance of a song that Carey (Adelaide Clemens) is performing for her husband Simon (Patrick J. Adams) at his fortieth birthday party.

These stirring original songs provide the backbone of the film, which works as a pair of love stories that unfold concurrently. Carey is an aspiring singer-songwriter who loves her husband very much, and has just found out that they are going to have a baby together. But her love for him becomes complicated when she meets Owen (Douglas Smith). Owen is a fellow musician who works at a local bookshop, and he endears himself to her almost immediately, but Carey feels guilty for spending time with him as she tries to balance her deep romantic feelings for both men.

The setup itself might sound familiar (there are some shades of Sarah Polley’s great infidelity drama Take This Waltz), but the way that MacKay brings these stories together makes The Swearing Jar an impactful viewing experience. Working from an an impressively structured screenplay by Kate Hewlett, the director does a good job of tying the film’s different layers together, allowing them to blossom in some unexpected ways into a powerful romance. Clemens delivers a strong performance in the lead, fulfilling the demands of the character and the complicated emotional journey she is on, as well as impressing in the musical scenes.

Public Screenings:

Sunday, September 11th – 9:30 PM at Scotiabank 1

Thursday, September 15th – 4:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

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