Friday, 18 September 2015

The Falling (2015

Carol Morley's really becoming something rather special.

The Falling signifies her arrival as one of this countries finest film makers, an enigmatic tale of mass hysteria in a girl's boarding school of the 1960s, inspired no doubt by the 1965 incident in the Mancunian Morley's nearby Blackburn which had seen a total of eighty five schoolgirls admitted to hospital following bouts of dizziness and fainting. Described as an 'epidemic of overbreathing', tests were run but nothing was ever found. It is widely believed the incident was linked to anxieties following an outbreak of polio in the town which had effectively left them cut off for a period of time. Taking this, and many other examples of mass hysteria, as inspiration Morley has created a fine, unsettling and distinctive film in the tradition of the great English folk horrors, the early films of Nic Roeg, The Devils and, perhaps most of all, Picnic At Hanging Rock. You can almost smell the oestrogen.

Maisie Williams leads the impressive cast as the troubled Lydia and it's a great performance from the Game of Thrones star. Granted, like with many juvenile talents, it's a touch precocious at times but on this occasion such a temperament is totally justified and it's an acting style that is befitting the character and the story itself - after all, this is a film about identity, as her character points out there's three versions of us; the one we believe we are, the one others believe us to be, and the one we really are. It could be argued that a deal of precocious performance is exactly what is required of the Lydia character, because that is exactly what she may be doing with the whole 'illness' after all. 

Williams, along with Florence Pugh as her extremely popular yet ill fated schoolfriend who provides the catalyst of the communal collapse, may grab all the plaudits and attention for the youthful cast but I would point out Katie Ann Knight, who impresses in her fearful, teary eyed exchange with the psychiatrist - it's a deeply affecting moment in a film that is littered with such great scenes. Away from the young cast, Morley captures a strong trio of mature players including Maxine Peake as Williams' damaged, agoraphobic mother and Monica Dolan and Greta Scacchi as a pair of particularly starchy school ma'ams - and kudos too for bringing together two of my favourite women on the planet; Peake and Everything But The Girl's Tracey Thorn, who provides the film's quirky, hypnotic score.

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