“I resent this idea that we’re just emotional. This is real.”Lydia Lamont
Carol Morley’s drama about an apparent mass hysteria event at a strict girls’ school following a tragedy is written with a fluid structure that explores a range of themes. Florence Pugh shows immediate promise in her acting debut, though this is really Maisie Williams’ film as the troubled Lydia who struggles both for attention and support. The primary focus is how a school so focused on discipline is ill-equipped to provide proper care for its pupils in crisis. Lydia’s home life offers scant respite, with a neglectful and neurotic mother and no father. Her older brother steps in as a confusing surrogate; the two are close because they have no one else as well as through shared grief, but their relationship’s unsettling progression into something incestuous works better as an implication than appearing on-screen. The Falling provides best catharsis in Lydia’s relationship with her mother as family truths are revealed. By contrast, much of what happens in the school remains deliberately obtuse, with rapidfire interstitial imagery referencing the occult and past memories. Some of the best character insight is provided through brief personal moments with side characters — these are clear in their intention and unhindered by the messiness of the main narrative. However, none of the narrative shortcomings make this dreamy experience in 1969 any less captivating.