This film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival
Adapted from Kate Hewlett’s play, “The Swearing Jar” is romantic musical drama about Carey (Adelaide Clemens) and Simon (Patrick J. Adams), two soul mates who have a bit of a problem with using colorful language too often. When the couple learn that they’re expecting their first baby, they become determined to kick the habit before their child is born. Whenever one of them utters a curse word, they must put money in a glass jar. But even a growing pot full of cash can’t take away the secrets the pair are keeping from each other.
As a surprise for Simon’s 40th birthday party, Carey throws a concert for her husband, singing a variety of songs that she’s written about their relationship. It’s a beautiful look into the couple’s journey, and one that is touching, heartfelt, and painful. It stings even harder when you realize that accompanying Carey on guitar is a bookstore clerk named Owen (Douglas Smith), a friendship that started with a harmless flirtation that is now blossoming into much more.
This may sound like the plot of a weepy Hallmark movie or a wacky comedy, but this film is very different. Director Lindsay MacKay wisely has Hewlett pen the screenplay, and very little makes a more authentic leap from stage to screen than letting the original author continue to do all the writing. The musical element with catchy tunes is a clever way to tell a simple story, but the excessive number of songs makes it feel more like a gimmick than anything else.
From the get-go, it’s easy to guess that something is amiss. Carey and Simon seem excessively happy, stable, and wildly in love. Their lives seem perfect, and their story equally so, and much of the first half of the film is just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Cracks begin to form, exposing the problems beneath the surface. While you may get an inkling of what’s really going on with Simon, his dark secret is revealed in bombshell fashion about an hour into the movie.
The performances are strong (especially Clemens’ singing skills), but the characters are very boring. They’re as plain vanilla as they come, and the conflict isn’t the most compelling. The plot is basic too, but Hewlett accurately captures the feeling of being in love with the security of a long-term relationship that’s at odds with the thrill of a embarking on a passionate new romance.
Although the storytelling is a bit sluggish at times, “The Swearing Jar” is an intelligent, hopeful, and heartbreaking film about moving on, exploring what can happen when you’re determined to write your own destiny in love and in life.
By: Louisa Moore