Starring: Maisie Williams, Maxine Peake, Monica Dolan
Director: Carol Morley
Running Time: 102 mins
The Falling is a British film about an unexplained fainting epidemic that takes over a rigid girls’ school after a major tragedy leaves the entire establishment on edge.
What this film does really well is set up an eerie and disturbing atmosphere for its story to play out in. With excellent cinematography throughout, complemented by strong directing and an impressive central performance from Maisie Williams, The Falling is a very well-made film, but it doesn’t always match that when it comes to true storytelling brilliance, and often gets bogged down in a fairly repetitive and less-than-enthralling mystery.
However, if you’re looking for a film that’s full of beautiful cinematography, this is a great choice. The film starts with the stand-out shot, a beautiful painting-like image of trees in a forest draped over a lake that looks almost too good to be true. From then on, the movie is littered with stunning shots of the local nature that contrast well with the dark and stale interior of the strict girls’ school, heightening the disturbing and eerie sense of the film as a whole.
What’s more is that The Falling is a pretty well-directed film. Carol Morley does a fantastic job at setting up that unsettling atmosphere right from the start. Although I wouldn’t say it’s a palpably and intensely disturbing film, there’s always a slightly unnerving feeling lurking in the shadows, and that goes a long way to making the bizarre events that unfold all the more mysterious and initially intriguing.
But as well as the directing style, the central performance from Maisie Williams is integral to making the film as dark and unsettling as possible. Williams is easily the stand-out amongst an otherwise less-than-stellar cast, as she takes her character’s dark journey through tragedy, family troubles, illness and more to an extreme with a violently angry and disturbing performance. Without her, her character’s turmoil would have had nowhere near as much effect, and definitely wouldn’t have tied into the often starkly dark and troubling tone.
The problem with The Falling unfortunately comes in its story development. Whilst Morley does a great job to keep the film as strongly-paced and unsettling as possible, helped significantly by Maisie Williams, I have to say that the directions that this story takes, or the lack thereof, just aren’t that engrossing.
The opening fifteen minutes brilliantly set up how dark and shocking this film wants to be, never holding back when it comes to topics that you might think are a little too much, but what’s disappointing is that it doesn’t really follow that through to the end.
While there are a few moments of truly shocking and unsettling drama that I wouldn’t dare spoiling for you, the majority of the film is simply watching Maisie Williams’ character repeatedly face up to her strict teachers and elders, only to fall victim to the fainting epidemic in the process.
Now, the repeated faintings do actually lend a surprising humour to the film, but it doesn’t make up the fact that the film really stalls after the first act. Failing to capitalise on a dark and shocking opening, the remainder of the movie effectively reinforces things we already know about the characters, and never manages to deliver on a genuinely unpredictable, palpably mysterious or even simply engrossing story.
Overall, I had mixed feelings about The Falling. Its cinematography is faultless throughout, and its directing is impressive as well. Maisie Williams’ performance is fantastic at the centre of the film as well, but apart from that, it’s a rather disappointing affair, failing to follow through on a really promising opening act due to a repetitive and underwhelming story throughout, which is why I’m giving it a 7.2.