The Falling

Directed by Carol Morley
Starring Maisie Williams, Maxine Peake and Monica Dolan
In UK Cinemas April 24th, 2015

by Amanda Farley

Carol Morley’s new film The Falling is an interesting and distinctive piece that transforms the traditionally prim world of a 1960’s all-girls school into a dark and mysterious environment where secrets and mysteries threaten to destroy the thin veneer of youthful innocence.

Lydia (Maisie Williams) is 16 years old and completely inseparable from her best friend Abbie (Florence Pugh). When Abbie reveals that she has lost her virginity an invisible barrier begins to form between the two girls. Unable to understand, Lydia finds herself lost in her own insecurities and discomfort. When it also becomes clear that Abbie is pregnant, the purity of their childhood bond begins to crumble. Lydia can no longer predict her friend’s actions and begins to feel the growing separation.

When tragedy strikes, Lydia is cast into a world of hurt and loss. The break between Abbie and Lydia seems to release a dark energy that affects everyone. Be it an illness, an occult echo from beyond the grave or simply a communal fantasy, it marks the beginnings of womanhood. As Lydia and the other girls begin to suffer the same fainting symptoms, first shown by Abbie, a contagion originates that soon infects the school.

Morley provides plenty of suspense and humor. The headmistress (Monica Dolan) is particularly wonderful and her no nonsense approach to the fainting episodes provides some of the best comedy. One of her cures includes neatly pricking a student with her broach to revive her. But this film is darker than that, sex and longing are very much at its center. Lydia’s dysfunctional relationship with her agoraphobic mother (Maxine Peake) is perhaps the most interesting story. There is a sense of longing in Lydia that is palpable. Her search for a connection and sense of belonging, while displaced to the act of physical intercourse, is really only a shadow of her real desire for maternal love and acceptance.

Tracey Thorn is responsible for the soundtrack, and the end result is eerie, lyrical and beautiful. The music manages to echo the femininity of the story while also enhancing the overall sense of Englishness. The use of colour and nature also adds to this sense of idyllic Englishness that is then shattered by the darkness of events as they unfold. Morley’s artist background is evident in this film and her use of colour and movement create a distinctive style. Some of the choices do not always work but her experimental nature is interesting and means that the audience is always enthralled by the beauty of the world unfolding and dismantling before their eyes.

Exactly where The Falling fits genre wise is less clear. It mixes elements of the occult with a dark psychological drama and then adds some great black comedy into the mix. The one thing that is certain is that this film is an odd but beautiful journey into the darker side of Englishness and femininity. With such a strong female presence both in front of and behind the camera there is a sense of excitement as to what this director will do next and what brave new worlds will open up as more women are inspired, by work like this, to tell the stories they want to tell.

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