I had the (dis)pleasure of seeing Carol Morley's The Falling during an evening with my housemates. Having read a brief summary of the plot of the film, as well as having viewed an online trailer several months in advance, I was intrigued, if somewhat confused. Neither the synopsis nor the trailer gave much away concerning the storyline. Now, having seen the film in its entirety, I can safely say I'm none the wiser. If anything, I'm much more confused. The film focuses on schoolgirl Lydia's (Maisie Williams) almost obsessive, lesbianist relationship with Abbie (Florence Pugh), a fellow student, who falls ill after having slept with Lydia's brother. Following her death, Lydia begins to show similar symptoms and collapses numerous times before the teaching staff. Before long, all the other girls follow suit, resulting in an epidemic that the tutors swiftly attempt to sweep under the rug. Meanwhile, Lydia's agoraphobic mother (Maxine Peake) remains disturbingly unresponsive to her daughter's behaviour until the film's final moments. Throughout, the film raises several questions, like 'what's causing this epidemic?', 'why is Lydia so deranged?' and 'why is Lydia's mother afraid to leave the house?' But the biggest question on my mind whilst watching the film was 'what's the point in this tripe?' As you can probably tell, this is one of those pretentious, moralistic and metaphorical films that is supposed to maintain some kind of underlying meaning or social commentary. The problem is that it's never made clear what this commentary actually is. Is Morley saying that early sexual activity is wrong? Or is she providing a commentary on the restrictive educational system of the late 1960s? Or both? Or neither? God only knows. What's more, a number of questions remain unanswered. For example, one of the girls, Titch, remains immune to the so-called epidemic, but it's never explained why. In addition, Lydia's bizarre romantic and sexual relationship with her brother (yes, this actually happens – as if Morley couldn't have made the film any weirder) doesn't seem to serve much purpose. I'm half-expecting someone to respond to this by arguing some deeply profound metaphorical jargon to the contrary. Don't bother. It's controversial for the sake of being controversial; pure garbage. As some other reviewers here have already noted, the acting and cinematography are mostly of a high standard; Maxine Peake is no less than outstanding in her role, making her the film's only truly convincing character. The other characters are burdened with weak, horrific and sometimes laughable dialogue and cheesy faux-horror movie acting. Scenes in which the group of girl-friends are seen linking arms, chanting Abbie's name and dancing in a circle, are particularly excruciating, not to mention somewhat comedic, as are the fainting scenes, of which there are too many to have any impact; it just comes across as ridiculous. Why Lydia constantly feels the need to perform some interpretative dance piece before collapsing is anybody's guess. Despite this, the young cast's acting abilities are far from abysmal, but with no logical narrative or decipherable plot, this is hardly enough to save the film from falling flat on its face. It's slow, it's repetitive, and laden with shameless attempts to be controversial and innovative. The fact that this film has critics in awe is extremely worrying, and it makes me wonder whether people know what makes a good film anymore. On a vaguely positive note, the title is appropriate. There is, indeed, a great deal of falling that occurs in this film. In fact, any fans of seeing people repeatedly fall over for no discernible reason are in for a real treat. Unfortunately for the rest, you may risk falling asleep. 3/10
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It's 1969 at a strict English girls' school where charismatic Abbie and intense and troubled Lydia are best friends. After a tragedy occurs at the school, a mysterious fainting epidemic breaks out threatening the stability of all involved.
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July 22, 2019