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Chris Kavan's Movie Reviews (3226)

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Falling, The (2015) 
You Can't Faint Away Your Troubles
2.5/4 stars

A boarding school full of impressionable young, female minds. A death that rocks the school (and one particular girl immeasurably) and a sudden onset of "fainting" spells. Symptomatic, psychosomatic or simply hysteria? But the real question may not be the how of things, but the why.

I was interested in The Falling first off because I wanted to see Maisie Williams (the precocious yet deadly Arya Stark on Game of Thrones) in another light. She much reminds me of Emma Watson, another child star who became famous for a fantasy series and went on to a strong career after the series ended. Granted, Game of Thrones is still very much in progress, but I would say Williams is going to have a good chance at extending her career long after it ends. The Falling proves she can handle something beyond swords and swagger - turning in a dramatic and at times heart-breaking turn in that tumultuous time known as adolescence.

The Falling also benefits from its adult stars - Maxine Peake as Lydia's mother (a shut-in who harbors a deep secret) while Greta Scacchi and Morfydd Clark take on the role of two of the teachers with Monica Dolan portraying the headmistress of the school. Scacchi is the staunch, hard-nosed teacher whereas Clark is the more free-spirited, young art teacher (who is the only teacher to fully feel the fainting spell). But it is Dolan as the headmistress who shines - having to cope with how to deal with the epidemic and what it means for the school, the girls and even herself.

The young cast alonside Williams holds up. Florence Pugh plays Abbie, who, although she exits early, is a presence throughout the film. Anna Burnett, Rose Caton, Lauren McCrostie, Katie Ann Knight and Evie Hooton play the main schoolmates, many of whom experience the fainting spells. But all seem to fall under the spell of Lydia - even the level-headed, non-believer gets taken in by the whole thing.

While The Falling begins and ends on definite high notes, the main story isn't the most riveting. For one, this is a period drama and it tends to drag along. I thought the story was interesting, but I was left wanting more. It plays it like a straight-up drama for the most part - those hoping for some kind of supernatural or horror aspect will be left out. In fact, I would say the film plays up the "fainting" as almost a semi-religious experience. It also deals a lot with burgeoning sexuality - pregnancy, longing, even incest - it's all right there and while some of it is subtle and bubbling just below the surface, at other times it seems to be handled a bit too heavy-handed.

All in all, The Falling reminds me a bit of The Virgin Suicides, a bit of Picnic at Hanging Rock but without the overall impact. For the young actors involved, it gives me hope of the future and is a good stepping-stone for things to come.


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