A haunting English period drama in the vein of Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Virgin Suicides, The Falling concerns the outbreak of mass hysteria at an all-girls school in the ‘60s.
Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) stars as Lydia, a whip-smart, angst-ridden teenager who lives in a cramped hairdressing salon with her older brother Kenneth (Joe Cole) and emotionally comatose mother Eileen (Maxine Peake). Her best friend is the bold and brassy Abbie (Florence Pugh), who lives a full and adventurous life. Suddenly though, after Abbie loses her virginity, their bond is affected and Lydia is in for a very rough trot. Lydia’s world spirals into chaos and strange things start to happen – notably she and others in her class begin fainting regularly and repeatedly. Has a strange ailment overtaken the school, is this merely an attention seeking exercise or is something more sinister afoot? The teaching staff are beside themselves trying to figure out what to do … and before you know it one of them, too, is afflicted.
Director Carol Morley has created a hermetically sealed environment for her girls to inhabit. It is a claustrophobic world of feminine wiles, sexual awakening and power. Make no mistake, The Falling has its decidedly uncomfortable moments, in which we – the audience – squirm. So, it is both evocative and provocative. For Morley, it is a follow-up to the docu-drama Dreams of Life (2012) about a woman who disappeared without trace.
I can’t say Williams’ character Lydia is the most likeable. Anarchic at home and at school, she appears to thoroughly detest her single mother, who refuses to set foot outside their home.
What I was thinking while watching The Falling is just who and where is the market for this film? Is it teenage girls? Would they really be interested in the comings and goings of prim and proper teachers and largely reserved girls in the ‘60s mixed with esoteric nature shots of trees and streams (for there are plenty of those)? Perhaps the soundtrack by former Everything But The Girl front-woman Tracey Thorn would draw them in? I think not. So, marketing it will be a hard sell. At various points my mind started to wander, although I remained vaguely interested in just where the plot was headed, how it would all come together or shake out.
Suffice to say that while artistic I wasn’t totally sold on The Falling, although it is certainly not without its intrigue. It scores a 6 out of 10.
Director: Carol Morley
Cast: Maisie Williams, Florence Pugh, Joe Cole and Maxine Peake
Release date: 29 June 2015 (limited)
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television