The Falling: Film Review
Cast: Maisie Williams, Maxine Peake, Florence Pugh, Greta Scacchi, Monica Dolan
Director: Carol Morley
Ethereal, bizarre, ambiguous, filled with subtext, trees and to be endlessly debated in film school.
It's 1969 Britain at an all girls school and Abbie (Pugh) and Lydia (Williams) are intense BFFs at a time when sexuality and an awareness of the world around them are blossoming. However, when a tragedy occurs involving Abbie, Lydia's life is turned upside down by mysterious rhapsodic fainting fits. Things get worse when other members of the school are similarly affected by the fits and soon there's an epidemic....
Hazy echoes of Sofia Coppolla's The Virgin Suicides riddle parts of The Falling, garnering it with a touch of the mysterious and occasionally, the aloof. Themes of alienation and awakening are peppered through Morley's, at times slow, piece. It even borders on the fine line between enigmatic and deliberately opaque as it plays out. At one point, one character even intones "It's not simple, it's all about perception", a knowingly self-aware line that appears to tip its hat to the hauntingly oblique story within.
Game of Thrones' Arya Stark is self-assured throughout, imbuing her Lydia with a preternatural presence that's unsettling, leading you to question what's true and what's not. Equally, Pugh engenders her Abi with enough charisma to make you understand Lydia's loss. Peake makes a good fist out of the agoraphobic mum, Scacchi plays against type as a teacher and Dolan is suitably prissy as the school head.
But the real star of The Falling is the tone; granted there will be frustrations for some over lack of answers, but thanks to it being evocatively and disturbingly moody throughout with directorial use of subliminal flashes spliced in head-scratching moments, there's enough to ride you through the lulls and into the idea that a collective mania / strong bond could cause such ripples.
The one moment that feels out of place is the culmination of an incest story thread that worked better as a troubling portent rather than an outright exploration.
Ultimately arty, occasionally oblique and destined for debate, The Falling shows Brit cinema is in rude health and talents are rising to the top, even if the answers are short on coming.