Thursday, February 4, 2021

film review: Falling


Directed by Viggo Mortensen

Written by Viggo Mortensen

ChinoKino score: C

Review by Allan Tong

Falling marks the directorial debut of Canadian award-winning actor Viggo Mortensen. The death of Mortensen's mother inspired him to reflect on his parents' divorce and led to him to write this story. How much of this film is autobiographical is unclear, but Falling centres on a fraught father-son relationship as the father searches for a new home and struggles with his health. Mortensen performs triple duty by playing son John, who lives in Los Angeles with his husband Eric (Terry Chen) and their adopted daughter. They take in the old man.

The father is Willis (Lance Henriksen) who is frankly a homophobic, nasty old man. He is suffering the early stages of dementia, which makes John's burden even heavier. Unsurprisingly, Willis attacks his son's homosexuality relentless, even as John feeds and shelters him. John's family restrains itself and doesn't fight back. They just grin and bear it.

This is the film's set-up and unfortunately not much changes. Willis remains a hateful old man all throughout. Even when he slips into memory loss, he still spews bile at the world, devoid of any manners or maturity. Recurring flashbacks to a young Willis pushing his family away reveal nothing. He was an asshole before and he's an asshole now. Do we care? Does the dementia serve this story? Does it make a difference in Willis' character?

There's missed opportunity for conflict among the other characters. John can bite his tongue, but why doesn't Eric or even daughter (Ava Kozelj) challenge John over the old man? Without such tension, Falling becomes a long portrait of an odious, one-dimensional man. 

A saving grace are the performances of the cast who are solid throughout. Also, it's fun to see Laura Linney, playing John's sister, and director David Cronenberg as a proctologist offering cameos. But are they enough to save this film?

Falling premieres in select Canadian theatres and appears on Apple TV and other VOD on Feb.5. It is released by Mongrel Media.

No comments:

Post a Comment