Movie Review: Falling24th February 2021
As more and more actors breach through the front of the screen and worm their way behind the camera, the independent film market is slowly being overtaken by big-name actors loaning a few million to put a passion project out there. As hard it may be to not criticise this system and the many downsides of it, it is hard to ignore some of the more steadfast results, not just from the modern age, but of decades before. Jonah Hill with mid90s, Alex Winter’s music documentary Zappa and Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote all spring to mind. Add Falling to such a prestigious category, for the efforts of actor turned director Viggo Mortensen present all the exceptionally rewarding experiences found in the rising star of a director with much to offer.
Using the budget and running time to muse on his childhood and influences, Falling presents director and star Viggo Mortensen with some rare creative freedom. John Peterson (Mortensen) is struggling. That much should be expected of the narrative. His father Willis (Lance Henriksen), is the cause of much of this struggle. His youth squandered by a parent that attempted to show the love for his son in his own strange way. It is clear from the start of Falling that resentment is key, not toward the childhood John had, but the way he was raised and the impact that had on him and that relationship with his father. Clear highlights come from this showcase of turmoil and destructive clash, Mortensen and Henriksen spring to the forefront with a leading duo that grip the emotional strengths of the film with great force, guiding Falling along with rewarding notes of underlying strain between two fractured loved ones.
Outside of these strong performances though, the rest of the film and its performers do fall to the wayside. Mortensen has no trouble cultivating the necessary talent, he just has issues with figuring out what they should represent. He and Henriksen do much of the heavy lifting, offering emotionally broad performances that touch on few thematics and cultural studies. It is Sverrir Gundnason and his flashbacks that do not employ much narrative strength. A shame that may be, it does a crucial job of displaying the backstory Falling wishes to tell, however loose and underwhelming these moments may be. Mortensen’s direction and ability to craft some well-blocked shots is a crucial service that keeps these slower moments together.
One, constant emotion is tough to capture, but there are rare films available that can capture a huge array, weaving them all into the narrative. Falling is not a perfect film. It stumbles and hesitates often, but it is a forgivable slight considering the freshman efforts of the man working the camera. He conveys conviction in his craft, room for improvement, naturally, but a fine effort from someone who has no doubts about the film he wishes to create and the message he hopes to convey. A hurtful man of a generation long past has no intention of connecting with the son he shamed and shunned all those years, but Falling presents a brash attempt at reconciliation, and how it isn’t always a happy ending for those at the heart of it.