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Is 'The Swarm' An Ew-La-La Netflix Creature Feature Worth Watching?

The Swarm La Nuée Sofian Khammes Karim Suliane Brahim Virginie Hébrard Netflix
Netflix

A single mother tries to keep her family’s experimental farm venture afloat amid a resentful teenage daughter, an understanding son, and a kind-hearted neighbor (Sofian Khammes) with a crush. These are the dynamics at play and odds with each other when “The Swarm” (“La Nuée”) begins. The French-Belgian Netflix film is an “eww-la-la” creature feature that is tough to watch yet impossible not to finish.

Virginie Hébrard (a commendably authentic Suliane Brahim of “Black Spot” fame) is struggling to make ends meet amid the recent death of her husband by suicide. At the time of his passing, Virginie and Mr. Hébrard were trying to homestead with goats and make a locust farm work. “The Swarm” indicates to viewers that the former venture was unsuccessful, leaving the family with one beloved goat and countless locusts.

The locusts are not yielding any sort of profit. Regardless of that fact, Virginie is convinced she can “farm” them like cows to sell for their protein. So, she tries to sell them by marketing their possession of higher protein levels than what meat offers people. The problem is virtually no one would rather eat a locust than a hamburger. 

Virginie will not get swayed, though, and she becomes obsessed with making the locust farm work at all costs. If you have ever heard the expression “blood, sweat, and tears,” you can probably suspect what comes next for “The Swarm.” A mutation of Virginie’s own making that is sickening and downright frustrating to watch. 

Virginie’s inability to accept “no” to her dreams puts her family, neighbors, and beloved animals in harm’s way. “The Swarm” subsequently shows what a slippery slope it is to justify one’s selfish desires by claiming it is for the betterment of others (“Ozark” anyone?). Unfortunately, it has become commonplace to see people who make tremendous sacrifices or are willing to do anything to pursue their dreams lifted up and venerated.

“The Swarm” offers a dizzying portrait of what that can mean in unvarnished terms. Virginie is selfish, cruel, careless, and unyielding in pursuing a failing dream, not caring how badly it is failing. “The Swarm” is the first story that I have ever watched that made me empathize with Laura (Marie Narbonne), who personifies the “angry teenage daughter” archetype. It is impossible not to get why Laura is so justifiably outraged with her mother.

Virginie puts her desire to make a locust farm work over her daughter’s emotional needs and mental health. She makes false promises of disbanding it, only to relent when it shows the tiniest sign of progress. Speaking of which, why on earth does Virginie keep buying tents to house this plague when she is not making any profit? It makes no business sense, which could explain her failure. 

In truth, the locusts are hard to watch (this is not “Heartland”), although the one-person plague Virginie turns into is the grossest thing to watch, literally and figuratively speaking. I will be honest in saying that “The Swarm” is tough to watch because Virginie’s emotional descent is. (Dog lovers beware of a horrifying sequence around 1 hour 11-minute mark).

It is the lengths Virginie is willing to go that make this a horror movie. If you leave “The Swarm,” seeing it as a cautionary tale about a person nursing a dream that is a black hole, you will learn something from it. Director Just Philippot and screenwriter Franck Victor (based on Jérôme Genevray’s original idea) conjure a haunting look at what happens when a revered trait goes awry. 

Locusts tend to bring that about in media. Virginie refuses to see the signs that it is over, and part of that is an unwillingness to “quit.” There is a time and a place to let go of dreams when they are hurting other people. If a viewer realizes that then there is an invaluable lesson that “The Swarm” delivers. 

You can currently stream “The Swarm” (“La Nuée”) on Netflix. However, if you are in the mood for something with a dark theme that packs some needed levity, check Suliane Brahim (Virginie) in “Black Spot.” The series’ first two excellent seasons of the off-beat supernatural thriller are currently on the streaming giant.

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