In Review: The Falling

by Chris Milton on 23/04/2015

the falling

The Falling is the story of an outbreak of fainting and falling at a girl’s school in the late 1960s. It begins by sketching the friendship of the beautiful and charismatic Abbie (Florence Pugh) and the clever, intense, but possibly disturbed Lydia (Maisie Williams), who lives with her agoraphobic, home-hairdresser Mother, played by Maxine Peake as an affectless mask, who can barely bring herself to speak to her daughter.

Lydia and Abbie’s friendship is tested when Abbie not only enters the world of sex, but also falls pregnant. Following a related tragedy, Lydia begins having seizures in class, falling and becoming briefly unconscious. More and more girls, and even one young teacher, succumb to this malady, which seems to spread through a kind of psychological contagion, and which escalates until there is a mass outbreak during a school assembly.

There is an air of the gothic and the supernatural to the film, due in part to a melancholy score by Tracy Thorne and brooding cinematography of Agnes Godard. She photographs the English countryside, its foliage and water, with a golden autumnal palette, which at times has an almost abstract beauty.

The film has been compared to, both Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures (1994) and Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1976). However, this is unfair, as The Falling does not come off well in comparison with either of those films, most especially Weir’s flawless, haunting, poetic masterpiece, despite its standout photography.

To some extent the girls’ malaise, and their encounters with authority figures, are played for laughs, but this register jars with the tone and the look of the rest of the film. The seizures themselves, acted in a way that hints at sublimated sensual rapture, along with the complicitous glances and mirrored gestures and tics, give the film a subtle frisson of implied sapphism, but are never explained. We never find out if they are feigned or real, though if feigned, the feigning itself would be just as mysterious.

The conclusion of The Falling offers a rationale for Lydia’s behaviour that deflates the atmosphere of mystery that the film had worked so hard to establish. It closes with histrionically acted, soap-operatic recriminations, accusations and revelations and, as with Morley’s documentary, Dreams of a Life (2011), ITV2-ish televisual tropes obtrude to mar what was otherwise an intriguing, entertaining film.

Chris has awarded The Falling two Torches of Truth


{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: