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The Falling (Director, Carol Morley) is set in a strict all-girl’s school in the 1960s and begins by following the intense bond between Abbie (Florence Pugh) and Lydia (Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams). Abbie, with her long, blonde hair and angelic face, is uniquely compelling—she loves poetry, established the school’s Alternative Orchestra and generally moves gently through the world. In contrast, Lydia is rebellious and abrasive—clinging to Abbie’s friendship in light of her home environment, which includes a cold, agoraphobic mother and a brother not beyond committing incest. Spoiler alert: Abbie keeps fainting and then dies, and the girls at the school are subsequently beset by spells of dizziness and brief unconsciousness.
I LOVED this movie. But I’ll continue this review with the proviso that, despite my high rating, it won’t be for everyone—as evidenced by the attendant who gave me my ticket whilst simultaneously expressing her distaste for it. I will admit that some of the dialogue is lacking in subtlety. Similarly, the ending, while it technically made sense, didn’t feel like it fit that cohesively with the whole. However, there was SO much to redeem The Falling. Abbie and Lydia were perfectly cast and the female friendships—between teenage girls, middle-aged women, and young and older women—were incredibly refreshing to see. Abbie and Lydia’s friendship reminded me so much of being at an all-girls school as a teenager—the way you would fall in love with and idealise other girls, or being such close friends with a girl you would lie in each other’s arms and have them stroke your head in a completely non-sexual, beautifully platonic way. Similarly, the ritualistic nature of the girls’ interactions and the choreography of their “falls”, while being wonderfully melodramatic, reminded me of my pre-teen Wicca phase. It was kind of a magical time, and the movie captures this beautifully. Similarly, the music and dramatic intensity of the girls’ fainting spells were really effective, and I loved the tableaux created by Morley of the school grounds—gnarled trees and rain on water, contrasted with the austere interior of the school and the headmistress, constantly smoking cigarettes, their crackling forming part of the aural terrain of the film.
I would highly recommend this film. The Falling was something completely different, and an example of the rich diversity we have the potential to experience when a director chooses not to utilise entrenched (read: totally overdone) tropes, character types and narratives.