Falling is available now on Curzon Home Cinema.
Viggo Mortenson’s long overdue directorial debut offers us a complex and emotional story of care, pain, love and regret. Here his powerful screenplay delicately unpicks the realities of dementia as it tears through one family’s life, further fracturing the relationships between a son, daughter, and father. Willis (Lance Henrikson) has spent his life on a farm in upstate New York. His first marriage failed, followed by a second that would also fall foul of his temper and suspicion. Willis’ children were caught in the middle of his marital turmoil as they grew into adults. Yet, both John (Viggo Mortenson) and his sister Sarah stayed by his side despite his volatility.
However, as Willis slowly succumbs to dementia, it’s John who picks up the burden of his care. Here John’s life as a gay man in a loving marriage with a young daughter suffers from his father’s relentless homophobia as he tries to encourage his dad to move from the family farm. But how do you care for a man unwilling to accept support?
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Feeling almost autobiographical in construct, Falling is strongest when exploring the challenges of care in families torn apart by a history of intolerance. Here its exploration of turbulent father/son dynamics is both assured and emotional as unspoken regrets, hidden love and years of pain bubble to the surface. Henrikson (Willis) steals each scene with a character study of a man who is contemptuous and arrogant yet scared. While Mortenson’s ‘John’ pushes his own anger and pain to one side in a desperate attempt to show love and compassion. Falling never attempts to paint its characters with simple brushstrokes. Instead, it focuses on the small, intricate events that build a life and the pain and trauma dementia causes as those events are stripped away one by one.
Director: Viggo Mortensen
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Lance Henriksen, Sverrir Gudnason, Laura Linney, Terry Chen