Falling review: A tender directorial debut
James R | On 04, Dec 2020
Director: Viggo Mortensen
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Lance Henriksen
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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 is wonderful as John’s supportive male partner) and resenting everything else that surrounds him, Willis 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 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. If we don’t quite fall in behind John’s sense of family loyalty and duty, though, and the bigger picture isn’t always clear, there’s enough to connect with in the small part that make it up.
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