Cert 15 | ★★☆☆☆
Jean-Luc Godard once said that a story should have a beginning, middle and end, but not necessarily in that order. The Falling has several middles, even more beginnings, and an end that doesn’t resolve any of them. This is no feat of narrative ingenuity – just a mess.
The setting is a girls’ school in Oxfordshire in the sixties. Promiscuous Abbie pops her cherry, suffers a bout of violent seizures, then pops her clogs. Soon, the other girls – led by Abbie’s spunky friend Lydia (Game of Thrones’s Maisie Williams) – begin to experience similar fits, though the teachers insist that they’re faking it.
The premise is intriguing, but the message is confused. On one level, the film seems to critique the way society demonises sexually liberated teenage girls; yet it also shows sex as a corrupting force. Attempts at gothic thrills sit uneasily beside trashy kitchen-sink drama, and plot strands lead nowhere. There are shades of Picnic at Hanging Rock, but with none of that film’s flair for mystery. Its one asset is Williams, who is compelling.
Female sexual awakening is a complex issue with a wealth of representations in culture. The Falling pays lip service to too many of them, and never finds its own groove. It takes some bold artistic leaps, but, ultimately, falls.
CRITIC’S CHOICE: FILM
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