- 10 Apr - 16 Apr, 2021
- 13 Feb - 19 Feb, 2021
Having quietly spent years augmenting his acting work with prodigious output in music, poetry and visual arts, Viggo Mortensen finally takes the director's chair in Falling, a masterful family drama taking a compassionate view of a father whose faults are impossible to ignore. Playing the son who must now care for him through bouts of dementia while absorbing his insults, Mortensen co-stars with Lance Henriksen, a beloved character actor who has almost certainly never had such a meaty part and who undeniably rises to the occasion.
We see Willis first as a young man – played by Sverrir Gudnason, who both looks like he could've been Mortensen's father and, as the film weaves through its then-and-now storytelling, captures how genuine paternal pride and love for his wife are poisoned by fundamental emotional flaws.
Moving to the present, Willis has acknowledged that he can no longer maintain the upstate New York farm where he lives alone, having chased two wives away. He's flying to California with his grown son John, and is having a confused episode. Willis believes the plane is his old farmhouse; thinks Gwen is upstairs; and disturbs both passengers and crew. John does his best to calm him, and the film flashes back to one of the moments that cemented his sense of filial duty: Willis, out by a lake with the four-year-old John, patiently helping him shoot his first duck, then cheerfully allowing him to treat the dead bird like a pet until it's time to cook and eat it.
Mortensen moves back and forth like this throughout – both to gently illustrate Willis' failings as a husband and father, and to suggest how the old man is experiencing the world today.
Willis is a homophobe whose son is married to a man. Despite his disregard for John and his partner, Willis is able to connect warmly with the couple's daughter, who overlooks his inappropriateness and calls him her friend.
Falling doesn't transform its emotional landscape into a simple question of rejection or forgiveness. It's comfortable knowing that meanness and affection can exist in the same person, and that tolerance, even when it only flows in one direction, benefits both giver and recipient.