Amplify! film review: Falling, Some Beasts
James R | On 22, Nov 2020
We catch up with two films streaming as part of Amplify! Film Festival. For the full line-up and how it works, click here.
Viggo Mortensen is one of the most underrated screen talents working today, bringing a tenderness and heartfelt sincerity to his roles, along with an endearing resilience – and all of that often conveyed in a multiplicity of languages. It’s intriguing and exciting, then, to see him sit in the director’s chair, and his directorial debut is as tender and thoughtful as you would expect. It follows John, the son of Willis, who is increasingly looking after his dad as he lives with the onset of dementia.
For Willis, moving from his rural farm to California, it’s a painful transition, and Lance Henriksen delivers a career-best performance as the hostile, ageing patriarch. Disapproving of his son’s relationship (Terry Chen plays John’s male partner) and resenting everything else that surrounds him, he frequently descends into racist, homophobic and misanthropic rants. It’s a shame, then, that Falling doesn’t always find a way for these to tumble into something more meaningful, even as Mortensen’s delicate script hops back and forth through this troubled father-son relationship to explore questions of masculinity, resentment and the fragile nature of memories.
Mortensen’s performance is beautifully understated – he’s defended in interviews his decision to cast himself in a gay role – and his dynamic with Chen comes with some unspoken, convincing history, while Laura Linney brings strong support as his adopted sister. However, the script (also by Viggo) never quite gives us enough reason to care about Willis beyond his odd-couple exchanges with John.
Falling will be released in the UK on 4th December
Jorge Riquelme Serrano won the New Directors award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival for his family thriller, but it’s hard to explain why. This undercooked, uncomfortable thriller follows a group of well-off relatives who go on holiday to a remote Chilean island. But when someone disappears, they find themselves turning on each other. While the talented cast convincingly capture the spiky enmity of a dysfunctional family, there’s a nasty, cynical tone to everything that not only stops us getting emotionaly involved but also leaves us watching some grotesque displays of abuse. There’s skewering unhappiness and privilege and there’s seemingly having no compassion for anyone at all – including the audience. An opening aerial shot is packed with intriguing, but this grim, queasy watch leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Some Beasts is available to rent until 22nd November. Once you start watching, you’ll have 48 hours to finish. Book a ticket here.