Maisie Williams leads an all-star cast in 'The Falling', a bewitching supernatural story of friendship, sexual obsession, forbidden knowledge and dark secrets. When a tragedy rocks her school, Lydia finds herself at the centre of a mysterious fainting outbreak. As her power and influence over the school grows she's driven to uncover the truth behind the strange occurrences. But as Lydia begins to ask questions, she forces old secrets into the light, revealing dark truths.
'A' for production values, 'F' for coherence
- The Falling review by WS
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You rated this film: 2
This is what might be termed an "experience" film - one to watch on the big screen if at all so you can be enthralled by the superb cinematography and historical atmosphere while overlooking the fact that narratively, it's a mess.
The idea of a mass outbreak of schoolgirls stumbling, fainting and convulsing for no apparent reason may not be completely preposterous - I heard of something similar in the 1990s called the Toronto Blessing. But the annoying thing is that in hinting at explanations for the outbreak it seems to nudge the viewer first towards one interpretation, then another. Mass psychosomatic illness brought on by unresolved grief? Extreme suggestibility? Something to do with hormones? Supernatural forces, such as in the scene when the students' watches all stop? Attention-seeking behaviour? I don't think a mystery drama necessarily has to tie up all the loose ends or spoon-feed solutions to audience, but flirting with different explanations in this way without any real resolution feels capricious, glib and dishonest.
The use of seemingly meaningful imagery is fine on the level of art for art's sake, but does it really move the story along or give us more insight into the characters? For instance, there's the repeated shot of the tree by the lake where the girls congregate. This is presumably meant to indicate that the girls are in touch with the forces of nature, which makes them . . . what? Stronger? More vulnerable to whatever it is that's making them faint all them time? Or just more female?
If that's not enough, in the last ten minutes we get a jarringly abrupt change of focus from teen group-bonding to familial dysfunction - almost if they’d decided at the last moment to turn it into a '60s version of Mike Leigh’s “Secrets and Lies”!
Premature death and bereavement, under-age sex, mother-daughter resentment, the individual versus group identity, mental illness . . . it couldn't be more overstuffed with ideas and issues if it tried. The film-makers evidently had plenty of ideas but apparently lacked the time, money or self-discipline to bring them to maturity, and the end result feels like an awkward mish-mash of social realism and fantasy.
The review posted by WS is spot on so I have little to add other than to say that thought that Maisie Williams put in an excellent, mature performance in the lead role and if that was her real voice, Florence Pugh is multi-talented.