The Falling review

Girls on the verge of a breakdown...

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Swirling with mystery, regret and compassion, Morley’s impressive fiction carries on where her docudrama Dreams Of A Life left off.

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Girls on the verge of a breakdown...

Writer/director Carol Morley’s follow-up to sad, mysterious breakthrough Dreams Of A Life confirms her place among a new wave of British filmmakers – among them Andrea Arnold, Clio Barnard, Steve McQueen, Ben Wheatley and Peter Strickland – intent on fashioning personal, challenging, mood-soaked dramas.

Set at an austere girls’ school in 1969, The Falling centres on the tight bond between the bright Lydia (Game Of Thrones’ Maisie Williams) and beautiful, precocious Abbie (newcomer Florence Pugh). Sadly, at 16, BFFs are prone to be torn asunder by external and internal forces, and so it proves when Abbie confides that she’s no longer a virgin, describing orgasm as “a little death”.

A sliver of space opens up between the girls and the air is further contaminated by Lydia’s dysfunctional relationship with her agoraphobic mother (Maxine Peake). Abbie faints, perhaps because she’s pregnant, perhaps from the emotional tumult, then Lydia does too, sparking a curious swooning epidemic as wobbly kneed girls drop like pins.

Though never attaining the woozy atmospheric heights of Peter Weir’s Picnic At Hanging Rock (a clear influence, along with Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures and Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides), The Falling does tremble with something mystical all its own.

Lensed by Claire Denis’ DoP Agnès Godard and gilded with a bewitching score by Tracey Thorn, it places the repression of young women, sexual and otherwise, front and centre – it’s no accident that Morley’s film sits like a bead of sweat on the lip of the ’70s, with the fight for gender equality about to explode.

But there’s more going on, too: talk of a ley line running under the school and a sense of Englishness present in the social mores and mannerisms, in the damp countryside and pregnant skies, in each adult denial and every moment of deadpan comedy. Ambiguity is The Falling’s currency, and it’s all the richer for it.

More info

Theatrical release24 April 2015
DirectorCarol Morley
Starring"Maisie Williams","Florence Pugh","Maxine Peake","Greta Scacchi"
Available platformsMovie
Editor-at-Large, Total Film

Jamie Graham is the Editor-at-Large of Total Film magazine. You'll likely find them around these parts reviewing the biggest films on the planet and speaking to some of the biggest stars in the business – that's just what Jamie does. Jamie has also written for outlets like SFX and the Sunday Times Culture, and appeared on podcasts exploring the wondrous worlds of occult and horror.