MOVIE REVIEW: THE FALLING / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: CAROL MORLEY / SCREENPLAY: CAROL MORLEY / STARRING: MAISIE WILLIAMS, MAXINE PEAKE, FLORENCE PUGH, ANNA BURNETT, GRETA SCACCHI / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 24TH
Mass hysteria breaks out at a strict all-girls school in Carol Morley’s latest drama, The Falling. Is Game of Thrones’ Arya Stark to blame for making her peers collapse in fainting fits or is there something more powerful at work? Maisie Williams moves from playing Westeros’ last great hope for Stark family revenge, to a very different young woman altogether, but one who is equally powerful in her own determined way.
Based loosely on real events, The Falling tells the story of a girl’s school that in 1969 saw an epidemic of strange behaviour from its young female pupils (and even one of the staff members). The girls have begun to have fainting, shaking and twitching fits, which breaks out and spreads through the school. Williams plays Lydia, the best friend of Abigail (Pugh), and it is her who has the strongest and most immediate response to a sudden tragedy.
The film explores what exactly could be the cause of this strange phenomena. This reveals the rituals of the closed-off school and the relationship between its stern authority figures and a range of teen girls, but this gives way to the more compelling behaviour exhibited. The staff have their theories, as do the students, but nothing is clear and Morley is content to simply observe as the school is gripped by weirdness, rather than offering any definitive answers.
There are hints at a range of reasons, but most are mere passing mentions and are not given any serious consideration; a TV report talks of radioactivity, the girls briefly discuss the occult. More prominent is the suggestion that this is a form of peer group pressure but more subtle and subliminal than most of the girls are even aware of. As both writer and director, Morley has researched many instances of mass hysteria and is never casting blame on any of the girls, instead looking closely at their personal lives.
Williams is brilliant as a girl who strikes a perfect balance between attention seeking rebel, repressed child and almost revolutionary leader. Looking at her eyes, it is easy to see why she was cast as the girl who could be called the ringleader of such activities if anyone wishes to cast blame. Lydia is an interesting character; both completely in love with her friend Abigail, but strangely unable to show much in the way of emotions. While the first act lets the two girl’s differences and their sweet relationship develop, it is the aftermath that really intrigues. Finally, the film delves much more into Lydia’s family life for the last act, and it’s here where the film turns very much into an intimate drama, with some rather disturbing developments.
The Falling is an odd film about an odd phenomenon. There are moments that are almost comical as the girls begin to theatrically faint together. Williams reminds of Stephen King’s Carrie in some scenes, but Morley is not making a supernatural thriller. This is a restrained, poetic film with some gorgeous cinematography and poetic editing highlighting the beauty of nature, particularly the trees and the water next to the school. While some may wish for more answers, or something a little more chilling, The Falling is nevertheless a fascinating look inside a closed-off world quite possibly going quietly mad.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10