Sometimes as humans, we collapse when life takes a toll on us. Many extrinsic variables exist that put a burden of weight right on our shoulders. And in Falling, there lies a father nearing the end of his life swindled with brutal political views and a mental disorder, protruding a nasty attitude towards his son and others.
The film revolves around John Peterson (Viggo Mortensen), a gay individual caring for his miserable father Willis (Lance Henriksen), who exhibits homophobic (and mildly conservative) behavior towards others. It also continually has flashbacks to young Willis (Sverrir Gudnason) as a selfish, mean-spirited father mistreating his wife Gwen (Hannah Cross) and their kids at the time. Willis continually resists trying to settle at a new home in California, as he cannot change his stance on the farm he owns and his understanding of his diminishing health.
The father/son relationship hits hard many times in the film, with John doing everything he possibly can to cheer up or rationalize his father’s beliefs. Instead, it only angers Willis, who insults him for being a homosexual and tests his patience in an ongoing cycle. It is a barrage of hate that becomes dull to watch as it refuses to evolve throughout much of the film. Past or present, there is no change with Willis.
He calls his son a “fag”, calls a bunch of fish swimming in a fish tank at a restaurant a bunch of “whores,” leading them to scatter, and even projects racially charged insults towards John’s husband. Henriksen, who had notable roles in The Terminator and Aliens, is the star of the film. He shows the monstrous side of human nature to the full extent and does not shy away from demonstrating how physically vulnerable his character is.
Director/writer Viggo Mortensen brings about a personal stance on this film, and it depicts the nature of the father/son relationship. He makes the atmosphere uncomfortable with Willis any chance he gets. With that said, it is mysterious to know why John would continue to put up with an abusive father when he has the new life that he is satisfied with already.
There are some elements of this work that do not seem to amass to something greater. The audience must continually witness John and others become bashed, and it does not lead to anything satisfying. Shouldn’t John change the atmosphere? Maybe his husband? Perhaps his daughter could assist in helping Willis’s character? The point of a movie is to articulate a character’s weaknesses and desires and have them sooner or later reach a goal. We spend way too much time dealing with the problems that it never comes to a proper solution.
It is a personal and harsh movie to watch, but it merely leads to a dead-end in the road when it approaches the finish line. Mortensen has the skills to succeed, but he could not make full use of them here.