Shadow

A man has to care for his deeply cruel and homophobic dementia-suffering father in . John Peterson () is a gay man, who brings his father Willis (), who is suffering from the early signs of dementia, to John's home in California with his husband Eric () and daughter Monica (Gabby Velis). However, Willis is a deeply cruel and homophobic man, who repeatedly spouts insults about John's sexual orientation. This results in John flashing back to his time growing up with his father (played as a younger man by ) and the tepid relationship Willis had with John's mother Gwen () and the lingering resentment about their relationship falling apart.

Falling is the directorial debut from Viggo Mortensen, which is a father/son drama about a gay man tasked with caring for his ailing father, despite the fact that John has always been treated cruelly by the deeply homophobic Willis. Suffering from early-onset dementia, Willis has forgotten that his ex-wife Gwen is long-dead and often confuses her with his second wife Jill (Bracken Burns), who is also since deceased. Willis is so disapproving of John's life as a married gay man living in California that he refuses the possibility of moving away from the family farm, even though it is quite evident that Willis is unable to live on his own.

Viggo Mortensen's directorial debut Falling is an often hard to watch domestic drama about a man having to care for the person who has always hurt him the most. The film's flashback-heavy narrative makes it evident that Willis was never fully on-board with the family life and ended up pushing his entire family away, ending up living alone with his horses on the family farm. Having been known primarily throughout his career for his work in genre films, Falling shows an entirely different side of 80-year-old Lance Henrickson, who portrays Willis as a completely irredeemable bitter old man, who is prone to making foul-mouthed homophobic tirades. This is most evident during a scene where John takes Willis to visit his sister Sarah () and he proceeds to insult the lifestyle of his grandkids.

Falling is almost a film that could work as a play since the bulk of the plot involves increasingly heated conversations between John and his father Willis, with the story broken up through the many flashbacks. While there is nothing outright spectacular about Viggo Mortensen's skills as a director, the acting chemistry between Mortensen and Lance Henrickson keeps the film compelling. Mortensen also returns the favour to his frequent collaborator , with the legendary Canadian filmmaker showing up for a very fitting cameo, along with .

Overall, Falling is a domestic drama with solid performances all around, even if the story is not the strongest in the world.

Falling is now available on the digital TIFF Bell Lightbox and other VOD platforms


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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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