‘Falling’ | Sundance 2020 Review

‘Falling’ is the directorial debut of Viggo Mortensen and is a non-linear story of a broken family. The father (played by Lance Henriksen) is an incredibly homophobic, racist old man who no longer able to take care of his farm. He attempts to live in Los Angeles with his gay son (Mortensen) his husband and their daughter. Tensions rise as old wounds are reopened as father and son have to confront their demons in this debut from Mortensen.

From my time at Sundance this week, this film was the one that divided most audiences. The writing and Viggo Mortensen’s checkered past regarding race, specifically his comments back in 2019, led most critics to dismiss this film completely as just homophobic ramblings with no substance. Yes, the old man’s character is incredibly flawed, and to me doesn’t really have a story arc. Not any of these characters seemed to “learn something” by the end of the film, and that’s what frustrated me most about this film.

Falling - Still 1
Lance Henriksen and Viggo Mortensen appear in Falling by Viggo Mortensen, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Brendan Adam-Zwelling. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

The acting is the furthest thing from problematic in fact the entire cast gives strong performances. The dynamic between Mortensen’s character and his father is powerful in the more serious moments and when they do hash out their differences are some of the best moments of the film. For the rest of the movie, the plot doesn’t really go anywhere, rather it tests your patience with strings or homophobic and racist dialogue without any real purpose other than pointing out what we already know about the character.  The film tightens around that, not focusing on the action of each character but leaving them in unresolved story arcs that make the end really unsatisfying.

I’ll always commend anyone choosing to try making a film, and Viggo Mortensen no doubt can focus on characters’ and actors’ performances. ‘Falling’ just doesn’t have a heart behind it. I don’t think this is truly the first debut film that Mortensen wanted to make, as it all seems very surface level. I think maybe if he chose to adapt something into a film he can go deeper with character storytelling but with this, it falls flat.

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Overall, ‘Falling’ may give old-timers a chance to feel like their homophobic rants are justified because “That’s just the way they are” might leave this feeling validated. Fort me the film can’t shift into the next gear it needs to elevate the material to something more substantial, even with all of the fart jokes.

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