Now Falling is appearing in so many more Festivals, it’s finally possible to put together enough quotes for a Review Round-up. So here are the best of them, going chronologically back from this month to last January when the film made its first appearance!
Image Brendan Adam Zwelling.
© HanWay Films/Perceval Pictures.
Viggo Mortensen’s directorial debut Falling is a compelling and carefully written addition to LGBTQ+ cinema. Mortensen’s triple-threat debut - he writes, directs and stars in this touching drama - showcases his versatility in the arts, as well as his understanding of dementia and the importance of its representation in film….
Mortensen’s script does well to dissect and explore the tangled duality of personal liberation and family conservatism - and it is Mortensen’s quest for authenticity within these stories that elevates the messages at the core of the film.
Eye for Film
4 December 2020
…it’s a really valuable work, beautifully edited and shot, with a wonderful performance by the veteran actor Lance Henriksen: a sombre, clear-eyed look at the bitter endgame of dementia. Mortensen takes a determined walk across the hot coals of family pain…
…With some self-effacement, Mortensen has conceded the performer’s alpha prerogative to Henriksen. It’s the right decision: Henriksen’s Willis, in all his self-defeating cantankerous arrogance, is so commanding. But I wondered if Mortensen could or should have shown us more about John, more about what he has gone through to arrive at this strenuously calm, diplomatic unresponsiveness. Could he have broken out more, shown more anger? Either way, this is a very substantial achievement.
3 December 2020
The biggest shock of Falling, Mortensen’s debut as writer and director, is just how careful, wistful and traditionally dramatic it is. There’s no experimentation, no sense that he’s trying to prove himself as an image maker, or peacocking with unnecessary literary flourishes in the script. This is stripped-back, robust, observational filmmaking that dares to allow a scene to be more than just a container for key information. It also allows characters to exist in that liminal space between antagonism and empathy, rather than packing them off on a formulaic journey from one to the other. To put it more bluntly, Falling is a deeply unfashionable film, but it’s unfashionable in the same way that a Clint Eastwood film is unfashionable – i.e., it still manages to exude a sense of hand-tooled quality.
Little White Lies
3 November 2020
… Mortensen’s aesthetic style, paired with cinematography from Marcel Zyskind creates an impressive visual blend. There’s an almost ethereal quality in the scenes which capture moments of nature from John’s rural American childhood with a dreamlike quality. A scene featuring older Willis lost and lingering on a beach eventually wading through the water, evokes poignant similarities with a young John sifting through a lake to collect a hunted duck. This and many others make up immaculately thought-out details which showcase Mortensen’s emotionally intellectual approach to writing and directing.
Falling’s impressive showcase in the build-up of years worth of hurt and suppressed issues, paired with impressively crafted emotive characterisation allows Mortensen’s debut to shine. Stellar turns from Henriksen and Mortensen, gentle aesthetics, and blending of past and present narrative strands are just a small number of the debut filmmaker’s successes.
26 November 2020
Two things are remarkable, really: one is Henriksen’s performance, among his very best in a 60-plus-year career. The other is Mortensen’s seemingly instant aptitude as a filmmaker. He has a clear eye for composition and staging; he’s visually economic but sometimes quite daring; and his script is refreshingly non-linear and rarely goes in the direction you expect. This is not A Dementia Film, as the subject matter might imply, and it offers no easy solutions for difficult questions, or obvious resolutions.
The final few minutes of the film seem to emphasise this, culminating in a coda that’s as surreal and confounding as it is poignant. As an actor, Mortensen has always managed to gently surprise, and it looks like he plans to do so as director, too.
30 November 2020
It’s a film missing none of the essential elements—a good script full of dramatic tension; excellent acting; and a close and painful look into aspects of human nature, love, and family.
12 October 2020
It's an intense film, well-told, thought out and deeply felt, that delves into painful feelings, the weight of memories, and the complexity of feelings. Mortensen's performance, as always, is believable.
24 September 2020
While it's true that Falling is so unrelenting in its negative depiction of Willis that it can feel one-note, that's not necessarily a criticism, as Mortensen wants to relay the terror that those around Willis have to live with. The drama also imagines realities to show Willis's warped state of mind. The performances are strong, with even Mortensen staying on top of his game, despite all the work he did behind the scenes in this debut that has a touch of Clint Eastwood about it.
18 September 2020
Viggo Mortensen’s directorial debut is an earnest family drama etched in jagged memories and an elegant waltz between past and present. His sensitive handling of the material creates a quietly affecting reflection on the ties that bind and provides an unusually juicy role for Lance Henriksen as the belligerent, bile-spewing patriarch…
…Mortensen’s own performance is as understated as the film, making John a dutiful son of almost saintly patience straining every sinew to avoid confrontation. Scenes in which he finally lets rip are all the more effective for his earlier restraint.
10 September 2020
Mortensen’s heart is in the right place; he wants us to understand these characters, as difficult as it might be to do so. With a more conventional director at the helm, Falling could have been reassuring, polished awards bait; instead, it’s something richer and more discomfiting. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I saw it. So will you.
10 September 2020
The film does a super solid job of balancing the multiple facets of John’s life. Be it his gay marriage, his Mexican speaking daughter, or his time spent serving his country. Rather than belabor any one point over the other, Mortensen peppers in each of these dynamics to perfection while still delivering the importance and power of each of these attributes. That is to say, it’s not a ‘gay’ movie, it’s not a ‘political’ movie, it’s not an ‘Alzheimer’s’ movie. No, it’s a movie about a complicated, quiet, and modern-day life… Mortensen would tell the audience at the film’s closing night Q&A that “there’s no shame, no matter how hard it is, in forgiving and accepting. No matter how much you might hate them. You’ve only got the 1, or the 2. When they are gone, they are gone.”
“Falling” is both a story about a trying child/parent relationship, and it’s a film that you should watch.
11 February 2020
Viggo gives a beautifully understated performance here, letting Henriksen (whom it’s nice to see in a really meaty role, again) carry the load and dive into Willis’ damaged psyche, giving a riveting performance, which allows the supporting cast to do just that: support a pair of great actors doing what they do.
28 January 2020
As a director, Mortensen doesn't make things easy for himself: We figure that a film like this is headed for some kind of redemption, but Willis seems completely irredeemable for much of the film. But Mortensen is too smart to go for an easy reconciliation, instead exploring shades of resignation and acceptance, particularly in the wake of an argument that can stand as a father/son version of the one in "Marriage Story" — primal and fearsome, it goes to places so dark that all the characters can do afterwards it attempt to crawl out of the wreckage.
"Falling" is a finely drawn character drama, as you might expect from much of Mortensen's acting career, and a film that pays attention to small details that bring these people to life.
24 January 2020
Having quietly spent years augmenting his acting work with prodigious output in music, poetry and visual arts (not to mention founding a publishing house that champions other artists' work), Viggo Mortensen finally takes the director's chair in Falling, a masterful family drama taking a compassionate view of a father whose faults are impossible to ignore…
…Falling doesn't transform its emotional landscape into a simple question of rejection or forgiveness. It's comfortable knowing that meanness and affection can exist in the same person, and that tolerance, even when it only flows in one direction, benefits both giver and recipient.
24 January 2020
“Falling” is unpretentious and perfectly accessible to mainstream audiences. Mortensen’s patience, his way with actors and his trust in our intelligence are not unlike late-career Eastwood, which isn’t a bad place to be so early in one’s directing career.
24 January 2020
Since discovering his sexuality, his father Willis has questioned the truthfulness of John’s reality in such insensitive ways that it’s hard to picture why any son would stick around to help – blood or not. But in that regard, Mortensen delivers such a defining performance that is so capable of impacting many whose experience is similar. His character’s reservations is matched with a nuanced delivery of emotion that feels as passionate as it is affecting.
Part of what makes Falling work for me is its dedication to not hide the ugly truth in what could’ve been a story that settled for stereotypical character growth and a happy ending. But if truth be told, it’s also what makes Mortensen’s Falling a difficult watch.
24 January 2020
In Mortensen’s most notable directorial flare, Falling flashes back and forth between John’s childhood on the farm and his present-day life in California as a well-to-do suburban husband to his Chinese-American partner, Eric, and father to their daughter, Monica (Gabby Velis). There’s nothing novel about interwoven timelines, but Mortensen’s vision of how the two interact is poignant and meditative.
Film School Rejects
24 January 2020
In many ways Falling is a tough film to watch, as we’re essentially voyeurs, watching horrible family dysfunction without it ever really amounting to much, other than the fact that there’s some grace to forgiveness even if its undeserved. One can’t fault the craft or the acting, with Mortensen low-key as the kindly son forced to keep in his simmering rage… One thing FALLING does that’s terrific is that it gives Lance Henriksen a showcase role. One of the best in the biz, Henriksen’s been perennially underrated ever since the eighties, and approaching eighty he’s as good as he ever was, sinking his teeth into the role with vigor…
…It’s a passionate debut for Mortensen but it’s not an easy watch.
24 January 2020
It's a confident, assured directorial effort by Mortensen, who breezes through the various time periods (with Borg/McEnroe star Sverrir Gudnason as young Willis) with ease…
…Falling makes the case that it is never too late to move beyond the hurt and chart a new course. It's a passionate, heartfelt debut for Mortensen, and a film many will relate to because of how tough the material is to watch.
Punch Drunk Critics
24 January 2020