By: Trevor Chartrand
Falling is the incredibly strong directorial debut from Viggo Mortensen, featuring fully-realized characters in a well-constructed, grounded world. The film illustrates humanity at its most raw in this powerfully compelling and dramatic character study.
At its core, the film explores the broken relationship between a father and a son, with a thematic focus on the gap in values from one generation to the next. The film focuses on Willis (Lance Henriksen), an elderly Midwestern farmer suffering from memory loss and dementia, who travels to California with his son, John (Mortensen), in an effort to find a new home to settle down and retire in.
The writing and performances drive this film with impeccable precision. Penned by Mortensen himself, the script is incredibly accessible, especially for anyone with a ‘boomer’ for a parent. Without getting into the gory details, Willis shares a few qualities I’ve seen in my own real-life father, demonstrating the powerful understanding Mortensen has for this type of person. The rich and defined people in this world are Falling’s driving force, and it’s so very easy to identify with Mortensen’s dilemma, dealing with a difficult family member.
The characters are opposites in every way, with Henriksen as a bitter older man who sees the world in black-and-white, disagreeing with an increasingly more accepting and tolerant society. His gay son, on the other hand, is as progressive as they come with a mind more open to change. This contrast creates a truly sharp, timely and thought-provoking conflict between the two people. Both father and son are torn internally between love for their family member, and a disdain for what they each believe in.
Family relationships are complicated, and can be messy, and Falling celebrates that fact. The film is easy to watch for the surface-level narrative alone, but could also be evaluated as a modest social commentary as well. The strength of Mortensen’s film is its surprising realism and its willingness to showcase an entire person, warts and all.
Viggo Mortensen is to be commended for his work on this film. For his first time writing, directing, producing, and starring in a film simultaneously, the actor has made great strides here, and I look forward to whatever comes next from him as a filmmaker. Overall, Falling is powerful, simple, and in my case, incredibly relatable. A highly recommended examination of the human condition, and a celebration of our evolving world.
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Trevor Chartrand: @OhHaiTrebor