What follows is a domestic drama focused on the never-healthy relationship between the father, a volcano of dark emotions, and his son, who responds to the old man’s attacks with patience, kindness, and a room-temperature voice. Anyone who has tried caring for a loved one with dementia – especially one who was not kind while still clear-headed – will recognize the situation John was put into. He feels an innate family loyalty, plus he’s a good man. He will not abandon his father. But there is only so much that a person can handle.
Mortensen makes his filmmaker debut here, writing the screenplay, directing the film, and composing and performing the film’s score with Buckethead, his regular contributors. It’s awesome work all around. He has a sure hand and above all an excellent judgment.
And he guides his lead actor, Henriksen, to the richest lead performance of his long and distinguished career. He fully inhabits a desperate, sometimes hopelessly alienating character: bitter and lacerating, poison to those who love him most, raging against the death of light and everyone and everything in between too; but also secretly a sentimentalist who gets lost in his own thoughts, especially in his memories of his wife and children before severing his bond with them. As Willis’ mind recedes into the past, his scowl softens and his eyes wet with tears that he’s too macho to let himself cry. When people try to dissuade him from anger, Willis closes a hand to close his own face, as if to crush a buzzing mosquito – a theatrical touch that feels natural and just like Henriksen does. It’s impossible to overestimate how awesome he is here, in a fruitful role imagined by the filmmaker. This sunset tyrant is King Lear minus a child and no kingdom to give: just a farm and a few horses.
The most remarkable thing about “Falling” isn’t just how skillfully Mortensen handles the cast (including Laura Linney as John’s little sister), but how he navigates from the point of view. Part of the story takes place in the 1960s and 1970s, when John was a child, then a teenager, and the rest takes place in the present, and there are times the movie enters Willis and John’s minds. . Jump between the past and the present, and often let the sound drop to understand what is at play in a scene or sequence just by looking at people’s body language in a sort of “silent movie” montage with sound. music, that’s not typical “well, the actor directs” the early days, where the camera is treated as a recording device for people standing there saying lines. ”