Dreams Of A Life explored devastating processes of social isolation. Now Carol Morley’s latest film, The Falling, probes its opposite, creating a heady mix of female friendship and collective hysteria.
The Falling Maisie Williams

It’s the 1960s and the moon-landing, a fascination with the occult and formidable social change feed the claustrophobic atmosphere and surging adolescent rebellion in a repressive all-girls school. After a shocking tragedy, a peculiar and recurrent mass fainting possesses the school girls. Choreographed with an eye for mystery, the collective collapse is a woozy, spell-bound dance of folksy-horror. The film’s ‘alternative school orchestra’ score of xylophone and triangles contributes to its intensifying otherness.

Giddiness, neuroses, witchcraft and rebellious sham are all potent possible causes for the mass fainting but The Falling is most enthralling when it fuses old-fashioned ideas about femininity and hysteria with contemporary anxieties.

The tranquil heart-to-hearts between Lydia (Maisie Williams) and her beautiful friend Abbie (Florence Pugh) are charged with burgeoning sexuality. Wordsworth’s poems accompany images of etherial, rippling lakes and forests moving gently in the breeze. Yet Morley falls short of the intoxicating affinity between female sexuality and nature conjured by Peter Strickland in his recent film The Duke Of Burgundy. Too much of Morley’s film feels heavy-handed, languishing under the weight of its own ambition. The Falling’s schoolmistresses are exaggerated authoritarian stereotypes, while Maisie Williams’ subtle performance descends into yelling adolescent leadership furnishing a melodramatic finale that spoon-feeds its audience disappointing twists.

 

VERDICT: ★ ★ ★ 3/5

 

Certificate: 15
Running time: 102 minutes
UK release date: 24 April 2015

 

Review first published in the Mansfield and Ashfield Chad

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