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Film Review: The Falling

Wednesday 22 April 2015
Words Ailis Mara

The Falling marks writer-director Carol Morley’s ascent into mainstream filmmaking after over ten years of making shorts and little seen documentaries. 2011 saw glowing press and modest audiences take note with her powerful documentary Dreams Of Life, a beguiling true story about 38-year-old Joyce Carol Vincent, whose body was discovered in her London flat three years after she had died. Morley’s doc focused on the darker aspects of modern society to untangle this tragic mystery.

The Falling sees Morley return to a sinister undercurrent of society for theme and setting. Set in a strict all-girls school in 1969, the film is part coming-of-age/sexual awakening drama mixed with a sinister depiction of how society views the tribulations of social groups (in this case, teenage girls).

Schoolgirls Lydia (Maisie Williams – ‘Arya Stark’ in Game of Thrones) and Abbie’s (newcomer Florence Pugh) relationship starts to tear when Abbie’s recent sexual escapades start to alienate Lydia. When Abbie starts uncontrollably collapsing in school it soon becomes contagious and more girls start experiencing the same symptoms. The teachers at the school are convinced the girls are faking and their stern tactics of dealing with the epidemic have little impact. Highlighting how the establishment and society as a whole become entirely unsympathetic to traumas it does not and cannot understand.

Carol Morley spent year researching “mass psychological illness” which all, though very rare, has occurred in various parts of the world, where specific social groups experience the same symptoms with little or no explanation as to why.

Applying this concept to a coming-of-age/sexual awakening plot is a fine touch and works as a narrative vessel to convey a story audiences have seen many times before in a new and interesting way.

Morley does achieve this, although despite the wealth of filmic and narrative ideas to fuse these themes The Falling can feel a little undercooked. This is a shame as it is a wonderfully filmed, edited and realised film with great ideas. When it works it works but there are often times in the film where it seems confused as to where it is going and what it is actually trying to say about youth, growing-up and how society deals with this.

Despite it’s shortcomings, there is plenty to enjoy and take away from The Falling. The young cast shine out, Maisie Williams proves she has a lot more to offer than just her role on GoT and Florence Pugh will no doubt be on her way to Hollywood stardom very soon, both have a wonderful screen presence and hold their own in some of the more tough and challenging scenes. The film also boasts two anchoring performances from established British actress Greta Scacchi (as the oh-so strict teacher Miss Mantel) and Maxine Peake (as Lydia’s agoraphobic mother).

While not a perfect movie, The Falling has plenty to say and does so with a strong visual style and refreshing take the coming-of-age genre. More so it’s a great calling card for Carol Morley who is an exciting new voice in British cinema.

See The Falling in cinemas from April 24th.