Viggo Mortenson’s family drama is mostly imperfect in its outcome, but it certainly awakens the potential promise of an Eastwoodesque directing career as momentary hints of able film crafting are exposed.
Esteemed actor Viggo Mortenson has celebrated a fruitful career of over 25 years, receiving acclaim from critics and ordinary viewers in films such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and 2018 Oscar-winner Green Book. Falling is Mortenson’s introductory effort in the worlds of screenwriting and directing, describing his debut drama Falling as a ‘very personal story’.
Capturing the dynamics of a conflicted Father-Son relationship, Mortensen created a set of fictional characters from feelings of his own connections with his parents. Touching on universal themes of family, and domestic conflict, the film captures a homosexual man’s fluctuating familial relations.
Jumping through time, the relationship between John (Mortenson) and his father, Willis (Lance Henriksen) is the focal point of the film. John’s mother’s irreproachable strength anchors the trio’s relationship, while the father’s increasingly combative behaviour is the source of strain and drama throughout.
Mortenson is solid as the frustrated son, while Henricksen excels as the tormented father to the point of concerning believability. Coping with rapidly deteriorating dementia, Willis is barely able to recognise his children. Along with fighting dementia Henricksen excellently conveys a man battling his past, and possible regret. It is fair to say that ‘Willis’ is grotesque, and impossible to like. Often, this seems to be a genuine issue with the film. It is hard to convey any engagement or sympathy with a man who is simply repugnant.
Taxing repetitiveness of the father’s obscene nature continued throughout, seeming to reinforce a point aimlessly, without building any genuine dramatic flavour. What seems in moments an endearing examination of human fragility and loss, resulted in a soft, undercooked finish.
Equally brutish is Henricksen’s character in his earlier days, portrayed by Sverrir Gudnason, displayed in flashbacks which document the tumultuous childhood of ‘John’. Acting as an unnecessary explanation for the strained relationship between Father and Son, these flashback segments of the film feel relatively out of place.
Both the inconsistent pacing, and jarring jumps back and forward are indications of the relative inexperience of Mortenson in the film which he wrote and directed. Despite glimmers of potentially impressive directorial capabilities, the generally weak dramatic narrative led to a relative state of disengagement.
By the end it seemed the film was urging you to feel something, throwing everything at the wall- melancholic montages of nature, old people dying, and the soft tones of a piano. Rather, it was the brief moments of body language, and occasional dynamic dialogue between father, son and his partner which exposed the snippets of a bright future for Mortenson.
Although the majority of the story lacked the dramatic and emotional power necessary in a slow-burn drama of this sort, it is certainly a credible debut from the ex-Lord of the rings star, which with guidance will open the possibility of a prosperous directing career.