Editor’s Note: The following review is part of our coverage of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. For more information please visit www.festival-cannes.com/en or follow the Cannes Film Festival on Twitter.
Come Swim, the experimental 18-minute short film from actress-turned-director Kristen Stewart already premiered at Sundance and screened in the Special Screening section in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival. The short is Stewart’s ambitious directorial debut and is structured into two parts.
Josh (Josh Kaye), the protagonist and basically only character on screen, is introduced in the impressionist first half of the short. The film opens with the image of a slowly-moving wave and then cuts to Josh floating underwater. He is about to drown but wakes up on a mattress in a run-down and cold room. Dehydrated he tries to satisfy his immense thirst by chugging one bottle of water after another but it doesn’t have any effect on him. While he stumbles around the apartment, a woman’s voice can be heard. It keeps on repeating the same sentences over and over again and starts to overlap with Josh’s own voice. Josh then is seen driving around in his car visiting several locations, always drinking water yet he dehydrates and deteriorates at the same time.
The nightmarish first part is followed by a realistic take of Josh sort of re-living his previous nightmare. He wakes up in his now nicely furnished apartment and gets ready for work. Similar to before, he keeps on hearing the same voices again – this time around they don’t seem threatening but intimate and also flirtatious. It’s obvious that he is struggling with a recent break-up and its painful memories. Driving around, he passes by the same locations we have seen before and eventually ends up at the beach, ready to jump into the waves of the ocean and take a swim.
Stewart’s short, to which she has also written the script, is a solid and unconventional debut. Despite its experimental form, Come Swim sticks to a sort of linear narrative structure. It explores the heartache and pain caused by a break-up and coming to terms with it through abstract and often haunting visuals, accompanied by an electronic score composed by musician St. Vincent.
Stewart's short, to which she has also written the script, is a solid and unconventional debut.