Director: Viggo Mortensen
Runtime: 112 minutes
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Lance Henriksen, Terry Chen, Sverrir Gudnason, Hannah Gross, Laura Linney, Bracken Burns, David Cronenberg
Synopsis: John lives with his husband, Eric and their daughter, Mónica in California, far from the traditional rural life he left behind years ago. John’s father, Willis, a headstrong man from a bygone era, lives alone on the isolated farm where John grew up. Willis is in the early stages of dementia, making running the farm on his own increasingly difficult, so John brings him to stay at his California home so that he and his sister Sarah might help him find a place near them to relocate to. Unfortunately, their best intentions ultimately run up against Willis’s adamant refusal to change his way of life in the slightest.
In his debut as director/writer – and music composer – Viggo Mortensen explores the fractures and contrasts of a contemporary family. The name Mortensen is usually synonymous with quality and Falling is a major, if often harrowing achievement. Hitherto he has been known mainly as an actor [Witness (1985), The Portrait of a Lady (1995), The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001-3), A History of Violence (2005), The Two Faces of January (2014), Green Book (2018), Captain Fantastic (2018).]
Mortensen is backed up by an outstanding ensemble cast including Lance Henriksen, Laura Linney, Terry Chen, Sverrir Gudnason, Hannah Gross and featuring a cameo appearance by David Cronenberg.
Willis (Lance Henriksen [The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), The Quick and the Dead (1995), Near Dark (1987)], an elderly, conservative and cantankerous man, is grappling with the early stages of dementia and struggling to run his isolated farm in upstate New York. His son, John (Viggo Mortensen), brings him to California to stay with him and his husband Eric (Terry Chen) while they make long term plans for his care. During his stay, Willis’s homophobic, xenophoic and misogynist tendencies are increasingly exacerbated by his memory loss, occasionally with humorous results, but primarily placing a painful strain on John as old wounds between him and his patriarchal father resurface.
Mortensen deftly explores the bonds and fractures of a father son relationship, while drawing out an intense career-best performance from Henriksen.
As Willis and John confront the events that have torn them apart, including their differing recollections of John’s mother Gwen (Hannah Gross); the challenge they face is to find a way to forgive each other, to accept what has happened in the past and, most importantly, what is happening to them in the present. Falling embarks on a journey from darkness to light, from rage and resentment to acceptance and hard-won grace.
As messy and complex as the central relationship at its centre, it is a tough film to watch, but one worth watching nevertheless.
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Images courtesy of Modern Films