Lydia (Maisie Williams) and Abbie (Florence Pugh) are the very best of friends, spending their days together, sharing a lifelong affinity that appears as an infallible, special bond. Though while the latter starts maturing at a faster pace – discovering sex and relationships, including a brief fling with Lydia’s older brother Kenneth (Joe Cole), the pair start to drift ever so slightly apart. With a turbulent, incongruous relation with her mother, Eileen (Maxine Peake) and a personal tragedy affecting her, Lydia starts fainting at school – kickstarting something of a phenomenon.
For the most part – particularly the latter half of this picture, The Falling is illusory and farcical, and while evidently aware of this fact, playing up to it somewhat, Morley doesn’t do so quite enough. Given the absurdity of the narrative, the filmmaker is perhaps too sincere and earnest in her conviction, as we drift carelessly between poignant realism, and this faux-spirituality that exists. Evidently vying to be a sensual and enchanting experience, it’s hard not feel like this production would be better served revelling in the sheer frivolity of it all.
The depiction of 60s life is engrossing, and somewhat subtle in its approach. Often filmmakers can veer into the realm of caricature and stereotype with period pieces, but this offers what seems to be a more naturalistic take on the setting at hand, grounding the film during the more inane sequences. The performances are commendable; it’s a immensely promising turn from the beguiling debutant Pugh, while both Greta Scacchi and Monica Dolan impress as the seemingly cold-hearted and uncharitable teachers. However it’s fair to say that Peake has been criminally underused, which is indicative of the mother/daughter sub-plot’s lack of depth. It’s arguably the most intriguing, most human aspect to this tale, and yet it’s deviated away from, as we frustratingly favour the antics at school instead.
The Falling is a peculiar film, and despite any apprehensions – of which that are many – it’s oddly memorable, as a film that will certainly stick with you, even if for the wrong reasons. At its core, we’re studiously exploring grief within those at an impressionable, young age – it’s just a shame that we lose sight of the more affecting, profound elements along the way.