Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
Viggo Mortensen’s Toronto-made directorial debut follows a turbulent relationship between father and son. With Falling, Mortensen examines the strong bond between relatives even after they’ve become severed. The focus here is on the relationship between John (Mortensen) and his ill yet overtly profane father Willis (Lance Henriksen).
Early, the conflict starts with conservative Willis being forced to move from his rural farm to Los Angeles to be cared for. It’s a difficult decision for John to make. Willis physically and mentally-abused his wife, Gwen (Hannah Gross), while John was growing up. He also relentlessly spews sexist, racist and homophobic remarks. Despite being against his father’s hateful rhetoric, John decides to move Willis in with him, his husband and child.
Mortensen’s Film works. His Script is filled with familial conflict and tension. For example, scenes where John’s family are having or making dinner are filled with tender moments of affection. These moments are often challenged by Willis who figuratively has his hand on the trigger, aiming at his family’s happiness. Although this makes for complex, emotional scenes it creates an irredeemable character. Mortensen doesn’t give much room for the audience to sympathize with Willis. His repetitious hate speech causes our blood to boil. However, this might be Mortensen’s intension. If so, he’s succeeded.
John repeatedly forgives his father’s inexcusable insults. Even when Willis is degrading who John and his family are. This becomes problematic for the story because John is happily married to a man. There isn’t a clear explanation as to why he easily forgives his father’s repugnant insults. Unfortunately, it’s this gray area that’s not clearly explained which hinders the storyline.
The one thing about Willis that isn’t wrong is who’s playing him. Henriksen is a powerhouse as the ailing repugnant patriarch. He’s fully committed to each hideous line Willis spews. Mortensen turns-in a touching performance as a man torn between caring for a hurtful father and protecting his family from degradation. While not getting a lot of screen time, Gross manages to turn in an impactful performance as the endearing Gwen.
Falling screens at TIFF ’20 as follows:
Fri, Sep 11 4:30 pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sun, Sep 13 4:45 pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox
Mon, Sep 14 6 pm
Bell TV customer exclusive
Thu, Sep 17 6 pm
Bell Digital Cinema
#SPOTTED: WILLOW SHIELDS, VIGGO MORTENSEN + GUILLERMO DEL TORO IN TORONTO
It has been to coldest, most unforgiving Toronto, winter so forgive us that we would rather be home than out! Productions continue to move along at a steady pace with a pair Netflix productions highlighting the pack.
Spinning Out and Comedy Let it Snow fully utilizing our wintry weather. Spinning Out is a Series starring Kaya Scodelario (The Maze Runner), a seen-above Willow Shields (The Hunger Games) and January Jones (Mad Men), about an injured figure skater with a secret on the comeback trail as a pairs skater. The Series wraps early May.
Let it Snow stars Shameik Moore (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse), Kiernan Shipka (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Liv Hewson (Santa Clarita Diet), Odeya Rush (Lady Bird) and Isabela Moner (Instant Family), and is about a group of people who are brought together by a snow storm. It wraps end of March and will stream on Netflix.
Academy Award-winning Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro must be lauded for what he has done for Toronto, creating many jobs and opportunities for our City with his unparalleled vision, which continues to touch the World. Known for his Films Hellboy, Pan’s Labrynth, Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak, Blade II and of course, Best Picture-winning The Shape of Water. Who knows what genius he is brewing-up again in the City, but we cannot wait! And it for sure will be huge.
Viggo Mortensen certainly is a busy man, juggling Awards Season and his directorial debut which happens to be set to film in Toronto. He was spotted at Pearson International arrivals, not himself arriving, but picking-up. I think he realized I was sneaking a pic of him chatting on his – get this – red flip phone, and he walked right up to me to psych me out and then walked onward! I was morten-fied! The Green Book Oscar Nominee who is in Toronto working on Falling was picking-up his friend and Co-Star, veteran Actor Lance Henriksen (Aliens), which is about a conservative father who moves in with his gay son’s family is Los Angeles. The two met with a big, joyful hug after Viggo paced around for about two hours waiting for his buddy.
We are thrilled to be Los Angeles-bound this weekend for some Awards Season fun and wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Viggo or maybe even Shameik (Spider-verse is up for Best Animated Feature)!
Wish us luck!
Don’t forget to tune into Hollywoood Suite, the exclusive broadcaster of this weekends Independent Spirit Awards, 2 PM ET/5 PM ET! Follow them on Twitter @HollywoodSuite for coverage and also follow us too as we’ll be on the Carpet: @mrwillw.
(Photo credit: Mr. Will Wong)