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Movie Review: The Fall at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2008

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A straightforward movie, The Fall may not completely work in all areas. The real life world within it mostly fails to engage interest and to keep the attention of the viewer. However when it showcases the imagination it has to offer this is a visually stunning and wildly creative film not just to watch but to experience.

In a 1920s Los Angeles hospital, an injured stuntman meets a young girl and tells her a story about five mythical heroes. Thanks to both the little girl’s imagination and the fractured mind of the injured man the line between real life and fiction begins to blur.

Thriving on its visuals and the cinematography which accomplishes it, The Fall doesn’t really work when it tries to be anything other than that. Whenever we are in the real world, in this hospital room actually watching the injured man and this little girl engage in conversation, it's a little on the dull side. And it’s this aspect which keeps the film from being a masterpiece.

However, when it engages you in the imaginary world it creates, it’s a wonder to behold. Whether this is a made up story for the film or a real myth, I don’t know, but either way it’s enthralling, visually captivating stuff. Employing a Wizard of Oz mentality, the story which this man tells, helped by the little girl’s imagination, is made up of people who live in the real world of the 1920s LA hospital. So we might see the resident chef or handyman turn up as one of the characters in the story that's being told. It’s not quite as brilliant in its totality as The Wizard of Oz, which goes without saying, but there are the same bursts of ingenuity and creativity scattered adequately throughout.

The colour palette of the film, the diversity and the contrast of each scene, is just awe-inspiring to look at. First time feature film cinematographer Colin Watkinson displays a real flare and gusto for making images look jaw-dropping on-screen and I’m sure this will get him the recognition it’s clear he deserves. The visuals of the film are one of the key reasons to see it; even if you hit the mute button and just watched the film in silence it would still feel satisfying. It really is that damn astonishing to watch and that aspect alone won me over almost completely.

As far as how the film goes back and forth from the real world and the story that’s being told it feels a bit clunky and even random in places. Sometimes it works as it’s part of the joke that it’s a story being told by someone lying in a bed where, as an example, the little girl will say something like, “You made a mistake, what about what he said a minute ago…” However it still doesn’t stop it from coming off as a bit miffing.

The star of the award-winning TV series Pushing Daisies, Lee Pace, gives a very understated and sympathetic performance. He’s entirely believable as this injured and mentality troubled man and his chemistry with young co-star Catinca Untaru, who’s just adorable in the movie as a Little Miss Sunshine-esque character, is just great to witness. I guess that goes some way toward making the uninteresting real world storyline seem watchable.

The emotional payoff towards the end doesn’t hit you as I expect the film would have liked it to; I didn’t feel the attachment throughout to get the intended effect at film’s end. However the mind blowing visuals, the imagination that’s on display, and the general showcasing of the wonders that storytelling can provide made it thoroughly worthwhile. Remember how you felt as a kid being read your favourite stories? Well, The Fall does, and that’s the very reason to see it.

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About Ross Miller

  • Derek Fleek

    I’ll keep an eye out for this one. Sounds interesting. Great review.