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The Falling – Review


Release Date: 24 April 2015
Director: Carol Morley
Writer: Carol Morley
Cast: Maxine Peake - Maisie Williams - Florence Pugh



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Visual Effects

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Posted April 23, 2015 by

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The Falling Review:

I saw the trailer for The Falling and I instantly fell in love with it. It oozed beauty, emotion and suspense, hinted at both the occult and the psychological and definitely promised a complex voyage ahead. I was very, very happy to see that The Falling delivers on every count. I am not going to sit here and openly claim that it is particularly easy to watch however. The trailer is deceptive, deceptive in the sense that we assume that the many obscurities shown in the trailer just promise a clear explanation to come. Within the first ten minutes of the film, you begin to get the impression you may have been seriously mistaken. By the time you get to the end there can be no two ways about it. The film drops hints and clues – many of them – but ultimately you are left on your own to puzzle out “what exactly happened”. And in a cinematic climate where we have become sadly used to being fed every plot twist beat by beat a very, very refreshing thing this is too…

It is 1969, at an English girl’s school. Abbie (Florence Pugh) and Lydia (Maisie Williams) are best friends. It is an intense friendship with its own codes and secrets. But what starts with Abbie beginning to “grow up” ultimately spirals into a tragedy which in turn is the starting point for a mysterious fainting (falling) epidemic that quickly grips the school like wildfire… It reaches a point that not only the stability of the school but the sometimes quite precarious stability of the families of the “falling” girls are threatened to be overturned for ever…

Before we get into an in depth analysis of the film I absolutely need to point out that the film is, visually speaking, absolutely beautiful. Especially the segments that take place on the school grounds are composed almost like a painting – you could stop the film at any random spot and have a frame worth blowing up as a poster. But if the views are brilliant and the composition is sedate in most frames both in nature and in more “urban” settings the editing counterbalances this sedateness by sharply cutting to unexpected segments a couple of seconds long, sounds and other little gimmicks to jerk us back out of the reverie we risk getting lost in and hint in the very cloth of the film at the unease boiling under the strictly regimented world of the school…

Another thing we absolutely have to mention is the acting. It is wonderful to see a star like Maisie Williams who is now undistinguishable from her Game of Thrones character Arya, completely at home playing a part that is worlds and worlds apart from the one we know her for. Lydia and her relationship with her mother Eileen(Maxine Peake) and her brother Kenneth (Joe Cole). They have a wonderful dynamic going from the get go, the house is dark and brooding and you can tell from the moment the lines are exchanged that there will be many dark secrets coming pouring out as the film develops. Also noteworthy is that Maisie Williams was the only professional actress from among the young cast. Especially Florence Pugh who plays Abbie does a fantastic job, her confidence in front of the camera makes it hard to believe it was her first film…

If it gets accused of anything, I do not doubt that it will be accused of being too obscure. The story, the mood, the way the story is told all push the film towards the broody and the unsettling already, some will enjoy puzzling out and imposing their own explanation to an open ended problem. Others however, will devoutly wish that at least a few more hints were given towards one set explanation. And yet at this particular point we need to remember one thing – The Falling is actually inspired by real events. Lydia and Abbie may not have been real people, however the fainting epidemics were a very real thing in the sixties. We now call this phenomenon psychogenic illness – an illness that spreads on a psychologically throughout a group, even though the symptoms are real and often the same for the whole group but the source – often for all the sufferers – is psychosomatic. The beauty of it is that in fact that there is a lot we don’t know about psychogenic illness even today. Thus, if we think the film is being too obscure it is because the story stems from a real life mystery. I personally thought seeing the characters trying to make sense of what is happening to them from a teenager’s point of view was incredibly refreshing.

You could argue that, very much like real life, The Falling just creates the event; it creates the universe and leaves both us and the characters to make sense of it and – in the case of the characters – each other. And if you think that takes away from the cathartic sense of “a problem solved” albeit artificially, there are many, many mainstream films out there to satiate your appetite. But if you’re on the hunt for something new, try cutting your teeth on this one. It may not be “perfect” but by heck, it gives you food for thought…


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