The Falling (London Film Festival 2014) Review
Although no audience members fainted at the press screening for The Falling, a dizzying atmosphere permeated from the screen into a room split between hushed awe and a few walkouts. The suspenseful drama is mastered by director/writer Carol Morley – last seen with 2011’s Dreams of a Life – in a delirious 1960s coming-of-ager set at an extremely British girls’ school. At the forefront are Lydia (Maisie Williams) and Abbie (Florence Pugh), two adolescent BFFs in the mould of Heavenly Creatures and Me Without You; they’re inseparable, yet start to drift apart when Abbie loses her virginity and thus causes Lydia to feel inadequate. That’s when the woozy spells begin...Teen crazes happen all the time and spread with ease. Well, The Falling has its own version of Tamigotchi when Abbie picks up a mysterious illness and, like all trends, Lydia catches on – and so do a handful of classmates. Although sometimes the symptoms consist of a nosebleed or vomiting, the general pattern is a slurred ballerina twirl, before crashing into a heap on the floor. The epidemic mainly affects adolescent girls – as well as the youngest teacher – with sly hints of sexual awakening manifesting itself as human behaviour held down by conservative school rules. After all, the setting is an all-girl school with hormones roaming corridors without an outlet, aside from occasional finger-sucking. Could the falling actually be intentional and therefore more of a dive?While Dreams of a Life never lived up to its immediate hook, The Falling is concerned with keeping viewers hanging on – too effectively for some, I guess – with subtle twitches that leave you guessing who’s next in the queue for hitting the floor. There’s also a satisfying level of dark humour that’s a bit like if David Cronenberg directed the iconic “Story of Everest” sketch from Mr Show, in which a storyteller repeatedly slips and turns the “comedy rule of 3” into a “comedy rule of 10”. Strong supporting roles fit this odd balance of comedy and psychological horror; Monica Dolan is the sceptical headmistress who pretends to have already seen it all, while Maxine Peake takes to a scissor-wielding mother with fascinating menace.Like all worthwhile coming-of-age stories, the notion of identity is a recurring thread. There are three different types of each person, apparently: who you want to be, how others perceive you, and who you really are. That can also apply to The Falling in that I’m sure it’ll spawn a thousand plausible interpretations upon its theatrical release. As Abbie says: it takes you somewhere else.’The Falling’ is playing London Film Festival 2014 as part of the Official Competition strand. Ticket information can be found here.