The Falling

 

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Carol Morley tackles ‘mass psychogenic illness’ in her first dramatic film, a drama that is saved by Florence Pugh’s striking screen début.

   

Falling, The

Falling foul: Florence Pugh and Maisie Williams

 

Lydia Lamont (played by Maisie Williams) notes that we are all three people in one: the person we think we are, the person other people think we are and the person we really are. The documentary filmmaker Carol Morley (who made the compelling, enigmatic Dreams of a Life) sees little difference in fictional and non-fictional cinema because “we are all inventing our lives.” And so there is a strong ambiguity at the centre of her first ‘fictional’ film, set in a rural girls’ school in 1969.

 

Inspired by the bizarre phenomenon of mass psychogenic illness – where a number of socially related victims fall foul of a similar physical malady – The Falling is a sexually charged, psychological drama with a striking visual piquancy. However, there’s also a clunkiness to Morley’s direction, whereby the adult characters never really ring true.

 

The star of the film is newcomer Florence Pugh, who gives the omnisexual, sixteen-year-old Abbie Mortimer an alluring vitality that appeals both to the senses and to the camera. And as her bright but inexperienced best friend Lydia, Williams (Game of Thrones) provides a beguiling counterpoint. The mass psychopathy, though – the ‘falling’ of the title – is a distraction that really doesn’t convince.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Maisie Williams, Florence Pugh, Maxine Peake, Monica Dolan, Greta Scacchi, Mathew Baynton, Joe Cole, Lauren McCrostie, Rose Caton, Anna Burnett.

 

Dir Carol Morley, Pro Luc Roeg and Cairo Cannon, Screenplay Carol Morley, Ph Agnès Godard, Pro Des Jane Levick, Ed Chris Wyatt, Music Tracey Thorn, Costumes Sian Jenkins.

 

BBC Films/British Film Institute-Metrodome Distribution.

102 mins. UK. 2014. Rel: 24 April 2015. Cert. 15.