|'There are plenty of things that seem ill-suited to Morley's apparent careful crafting, especially given the argument that this is a mood piece first and foremost'|
Carol Morley's obtuse The Falling has some good ideas, marred by odd production and directorial choices. Ostensibly a narrative about the bond between two teenage girls (Maisie Williams and Florence Pugh) and what happens when that breaks down, Morley is clearly more interested in almost metaphysical, psychological and conceptual ideas that surround the girl's relationship. The film has been compared to Picnic At Hanging Rock and certainly, through the fuzzy-edged photography, you can see why that film is a touch point for many.
There are though, plenty of things that seem ill-suited to Morley's apparent careful crafting, especially given the argument that this is a mood piece first and foremost, with plot very much relegated to second fiddle. The music, for one thing, features a fairly modern soundtrack when it needed someone like Jonny Greenwood to come and make things even more ethereal; simultaneously spiky and floaty. The large oak tree, which features as a point of focus for the film, is never seen in full, when surely it was begging for a superlative long shot. More significantly, Morley frequently resorts to montage, some peppered with subliminal imagery, to tell her story; from the very start, to the music class that comes across as a Pagan-worshipping version of Pitch Perfect, to later flashbacks.
Those elements serve to make the purposeful confusion of The Falling muddied by accidental confusion from elements that don't fit, which is a shame because the core of the film can be effective. As Lydia's (Williams) fainting fits intensify, mirroring those Abbie (Pugh) has apparently experienced before, all sorts of things are suggested by Morley. Overt mentions of lay lines ('sacred sublime') suggest some sort of paranormal overtone. Abbie's relationship with Lydia's brother Kenneth (Joe Cole) gives a very obvious sexual overtone to the whole thing. Discussions around the French 'la petite mort' directly link Abbie and Lydia's fainting to sex, perhaps a little too obviously so for a film defined by its lack of answers.
Actually, you wonder if the film is simply about growing up as a woman, in a world that is tragically male, no matter how hard you try to or even manage to see it otherwise. Abbie and Lydia are both heavily influenced by Kenneth, as Lydia's mother (Maxine Peake) has clearly been influenced by a man previously. This all happens despite the apparently safe environment of the all girl's school the two younger women inhabit. In actual fact, that is almost certainly too simple an explanation as well, as nearly any other critique which picks a singular element (sex, adolescence, supernatural, etc.) will probably also be. The Falling is a layered film, attractive in the multiple explanations which it offers, even if many of them are obscured by its less successful elements.