Review: The Falling

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DIR/WRI: Carol Morley • PRO: Luc Roeg, Cario Cannon • DOP: Agnès Godard • ED: Chris Wyatt • CAST: Maisie Williams, Florence Pugh, Maxine Peake, Monica Dolan, Greta Scacchi

 

In The Falling, Carol Morley follows up her memorable documentary feature, Dreams of a Life (2011), with an equally mysterious piece of fiction. Set in a pitch-perfect evocation of 1960s England, The Falling involves an inexplicable epidemic of fainting spells that sweeps a girls’ school in the aftermath of a tragic event.

 

The narrative centres on a pair of girls, Lydia (Maisie Williams) and Abbie (Florence Pugh), whose contrasting personalities and symbiotic relationship stirs faint memories of Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures (1994). Williams is highly credible as the sullen and acerbic half of the pair, although newcomer Pugh arguably steals the film in the less showy part of the otherworldly Abbie. Of the adults, Greta Scacchi and Monica Dolan contribute sharply-etched turns as a prim teacher and a dismissive headmistress, respectively, while Morfydd Clark makes an impression in a small part as the only “adult” to be affected by the fainting spells that spread like wildfire through the student body.

 

The ever-fine Maxine Peake has a tricky role as Lydia’s agoraphobic mother, remaining aloof for the bulk of the film before delivering a series of last-minute revelations that have the unintended effect of sapping some of the film’s alluring ambiguity. Morley’s decision to provide a partial solution to one of The Falling‘s central mysteries sets it apart from its most obvious antecedent, Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975). While some may be disappointed that The Falling is rather more literal-minded than it initially appears, Morley’s decision to privilege the lived experiences of her adolescent protagonists over their symbolic qualities sets her film apart from the fascinated, but remote, gaze of Weir’s classic. Like Lucille Hadzihaliovic’s ravishing Innocence (2004) and Jordan Scott’s unfairly overlooked Cracks (2009), The Falling has empathy and rigour that cuts against the potentially objectifying qualities of the long-standing “mysterious schoolgirls” subgenre.

 

Claire Denis’ regular cinematographer Agnès Godard provides beautifully burnished images throughout, proving equally adept with the uncomfortable intimacy of Lydia’s suburban home and the eerie beauty of the exteriors. Chris Wyatt’s editing is also striking, tempering the dreamlike pacing of the film with flash-cut imagery that lends a genuinely disorienting edge to the fainting sequences. These sequences, like the film in general, are immeasurably enhanced by a marvellously evocative score by the great Tracey Thorn. Equally sensual and naïve, childlike and world-weary, Thorn’s unmistakable voice perfectly catches the tone of the film, and goes a long way to maintaining Morley’s intoxicating mood through the occasional bumpy patch.

 

 

David Turpin

16 (See IFCO for details)
102 minutes

The Falling is released 24th April 2015

 

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Cinema Review: Run & Jump

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DIR: Steph Green  • WRISteph Green, Ailbhe Keogan  PRO: Tamara Anghie, Martina Niland • DOP: Kevin Richey • ED: Nathan Nugent • MUS: Sebastian Pille • DES: Stephen Daly • CAST: Maxine Peake, Will Forte, Edward McLiam, Sharon Horgan, Brendan Morris, Ruth McCabe

 

Run & Jump centres on the vivacious Vanetia Casey (Maxine Peake), whose happy-go-lucky personality conceals the heartache of holding her family together after her young husband, Conor (Edward McLiam), suffers a stroke. When American neuropsychologist Dr. Ted Fielding (Will Forte) travels to Ireland to study Conor’s rehabilitation and recovery, he finds himself irresistibly drawn into the Casey family, forging meaningful relationships with more than one of its members.

The film is beautifully photographed, and admirably side-steps most of the tourist-friendly outdoor money-shots in favour of interior, intimate storytelling. Director Steph Green introduces a number of visual and thematic motifs, not only linking the core cast of the film, but introducing a whole other dimension to the narrative. The greens and yellows traditionally associated with the film’s setting of Co. Kerry are warmly incorporated into its world, while cooler melancholy blues creep in to disrupt that warmth, for better and worse.

Ailbhe Keogan’s poignant script is a low-concept affair, which is nevertheless ambitious, exploring different attitudes and concepts of intimacy and how they are affected by numerous narrative events. In addition to the initial trauma of Conor’s stroke, which has dramatically altered his personality and behaviour, and the arrival of Dr. Fielding into the Casey household, the script also throws a number of other twists into the mix, including a suicide attempt, a sudden death, and local homophobic tension. Yet all of these potentially over-wrought issues are handled in an impressively subtle and contained manner within the film. With the exception of an eleventh-hour declaration of love, which feels both out of character and present out of necessity to fit the genre of the film, Run and Jump is, to its credit, more mellow drama than melodrama.

This well-balanced tone and sensitivity to the issues of Run and Jump can equally be attributed to the film’s remarkable cast. Vanetia is not only the glue that holds her family together, but also the emotional core of this film, and Maxine Peake fully succeeds in realising her near-relentless perkiness in the face of incomprehensible emotional challenges. Whether she’s dancing like nobody’s watching, feigning shock over recreational marijuana use, or cheerfully threatening property damage, Peake presents the audience with a heroine whose quirks are for the sake of self-preservation and survival rather than mere ‘adorkable’ idiosyncrasy. ‘I forgot you’re mourning a husband too,’ a newly-widowed character commiserates at a funeral, and so too had the audience: For all of the quick humour and warm energy on display from Vanetia, she is struggling throughout with the fact that the man she loved and married has become an entirely different person.

The rest of the cast is strong, too: Will Forte shares great chemistry with Peake and proves his convincingly earnest everyman from Nebraska was no fluke, with another standout dramatic performance as Ted Fielding; while Sharon Horgan reliably fills her few brief moments on-screen with humour, and Brendan Morris’ subtle underplaying of the Casey’s troubled son, Lenny, marks him as a bright new talent to watch. While Edward McLiam manages the challenging feat of playing Conor before (in flashbacks) and after the stroke quite well, the representation of this character is the only potentially weak link. In the effort to emphasise how much Conor has changed, his characterisation as withdrawn, obsessive-compulsive and abrasive is almost too negative compared to the flashbacks of the sweet, funny and caring man he was before. While this is, of course, the point – it highlights how difficult it is for Vanetia to cope with this man as her husband if the audience can’t even stick him as a secondary character— the film still takes a little too long to allow any humanity to creep back into Conor.

Run & Jump is an exceptionally well-handled drama about a difficult subject; Enjoyable, accessible and sensitive, without ever succumbing to false, mawkish sentimentality, with a few brisk laughs and an optimistic, heart-warming ending. Run, jump – don’t walk – to the nearest possible place you can see this film and dive into its colourful world.

Stacy Grouden

15A (See IFCO for details)
105 mins

Run & Jump is released on 2nd May 2014

Run & Jump – Official Website

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JH2yuajfBg

 

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