Despite generally exceptional performances, brilliant camerawork, and the sense of dread that can only be felt from the British school system, this film fails to stick to one idea, or a captivating plot
The Falling is the second feature film from British director Carol Morely. Set in a school for girls in 1969, the film details the sudden mysterious outbreak of fainting that sweeps the school, following a tragic accident involving one of the pupils.
Reviews of this film are extremely polarizing, with people either adoring or despising the film. Critics seem to mostly experience the former, and the public the latter. I would like to think of myself as a critic, and one that enjoys the wider variety of films (read pretentious) and yet, I couldn’t see the film as much more than a mess.
In these reviews there a handfuls of comparisons to previous popular works such as The Wicker Man, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Heavenly Creatures, Twin Peaks, The Devils, Don’t Look Now, or that French cousins film from Arrested Development. This is both a strength and a weakness of the film; to the aforementioned critics, they can view it as an amalgamation of classic films they love through their knowing of which films the director is paying homage to, or when the film is vague in its intentions (as it is for the majority) it allows for interpretations and parallels.
However, while this film is similar to many of these classic efforts in some ways, it definitely isn’t in terms of originality. The Falling simultaneously attempts multiple themes and ideologies, juggling the single aspects that make its predecessors so great, and as a result fails to present any successfully. The focus changes direction constantly, which at first seems to be a representation of the confusion of teenage years (sexual awakening, realising that the world is not as perfect as it seems etc.) but by the third act, it manifests itself into a psychotic breakdown.
The characters are established, their backgrounds, people around them, minute aspects of their lives, all building as though there is some great meaning behind them, or purpose, only for there to be none. The problem with making a film behind an unexplained phenomenon is that, if it’s not explained, what is there to get from concluding the film? Only one of the many relationships is brought to a conclusion, leaving the rest as empty characters, most likely kept in the film to maintain tone, or as some personal reference from the director.
I will list the positives for the film though. The cinematography is brilliant, and doesn’t rely on any phoney effects to convey the historical context of the film. There wasn’t a single moment that was badly shot, and this was easily the best aspect of the film. The tone was also consistent throughout, a slow creepy feel, manifested from the pacing, acting, set design, and no doubt that memory of the strange teacher you once had. Unfortunately this tone is constantly at war with the soundtrack, a collection of cheesy, generic, singer-songwriter songs, which turn some of the kookier moments from possibly chilling to almost laughable, an odd choice for an art-house film such as this. The performances are also susceptible to moments like this, while generally exceptional throughout, there are scenes where the direction does seem to be “Old B-Movie Horror” style, which again pulls you out of the film and makes light of what would have been interesting character moments.
Despite my problems with the film I have come to respect certain aspects of it, as various research has discovered how personal the film is to the creator. This also comes with the suggestion that you do not decide to watch this film with family, as it does get rather dark sexually at times, enough to pass the “Is this awkward to watch together?” gauge.
If the above list of films interested you then by all means go ahead and watch The Falling. I wish I enjoyed it more than I did but, truth be told, I found it to be mismanaged, confused, and thematically scatter-brained. Phew, I think I kept enough long words in there to maintain my self-proclaimed critic status.
The Falling (2014), directed by Carol Morely, is released on DVD and Blu-ray disc in the UK by Metrodome, Certificate 15.