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Kristen Stewart’s Narrative Directorial Debut Come Swim “a Surrealistic Journey” Through Anxiety

Refinery 29 is doing good work with its Shatterbox Anthology series, which puts the focus on female directors directing their first narrative short films. The series that brought us Courtney Hoffman’s The Good Time Girls (which led to her getting her feature debut over at Amblin) and Gabourey Sidibe’s The Story of Four, a fiercely feminine and nuanced look at the effects of racism in America, now brings us a film by Kristen Stewart.

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According to the description on its YouTube page, Come Swim is “a surrealistic journey through one man’s imagination. Alternating between abstract, artistic representations, and alarmingly realistic scenes, the film takes audiences through the journey of one man’s day coping with anxiety and heartbreak.” In addition to being written and directed by Stewart, the film is scored by St. Vincent.

Before being featured on Refinery 29, the film already had premieres at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals this year and led to Stewart continuing her work behind the camera by doing a music video for Chvrches, which was her second music video project after directing a video for Sage + The Saints and their song “Take Me to the South.”

Come Swim is definitely on the more avant garde, artsy side of the spectrum, but its relentless voiceover chattering in the background, and the constant dependence on water really makes you feel the protagonist’s anxiety and oppressive fear. I thought it was an interesting choice to have her first narrative short be about a male character. A part of me wished she’d told the same story about a woman, but the other part of me was grateful for this depiction of a man actually feeling his feelings and wrestling with them, rather than shoving them down.

According to IndieWire, Stewart called making this film the “most satisfying” project she’s ever worked on, then said, “As an actor, you’re like a little thing that can help everyone feel this, but when it comes from you — it’s like validation in the most ultimate. You’re not alone. Like, ‘I see you, girl. I see you, and I get it.’ It’s like, ‘Yes!’”

I’m grateful to Refinery 29 for the Shatterbox series. Next, I hope they offer a platform to lesser-known first-time directors. While it’s amazing that these women who are already working in film and television in some capacity are switching gears into directing, there are plenty of women out there for whom directing was always a first love, but have nowhere near the platform of a Kristen Stewart, or a Gabourey Sidibe, or even a Courtney Hoffman, who was a costume designer for directors like Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright.

Those women deserve to have their voices heard, too.

(via IndieWire, image: screencap)

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Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.

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