Hollywood veteran Viggo Mortensen had wanted to write and direct his own film for over 24 years. Now, finally, the product of that desire has landed in the form of Falling.
As well as penning and directing the movie, Mortensen also stars as John, a gay married man who takes in his uber-conservative father, Willis, who is suffering the early signs of dementia. Cue many a verbal clash between the pair – and any other member of the family Willis sets his eyes upon – as the ageing bigoted man freely expresses his homophobic and racist views.
Partly autobiographical, Mortensen’s characters and relationships are authentically drawn (notwithstanding some grumbles of criticism he chose to play a gay character as a straight man). But it’s the barnstorming performance by Lance Henriksen as Willis, and the tense and emotionally wrought scenes that unfold between him and Mortensen, that particularly deliver the film’s powerful punch. The ever-excellent Laura Linney also makes a welcome appearance as the long-suffering daughter, whose upbeat resilience is nearing breaking point.
Both captivating and excruciating to watch, Mortensen’s passion project makes for a beautifully executed directorial debut, exploring the limits of unconditional familial love, the impact of diseases like dementia on individuals and those around them, and how we reconcile differences in an increasingly polarised world.
We had the privilege of speaking to Mortensen about the long road to making the semi-autobiographical film and how its themes of acceptance in spite of difference are more relevant now than ever. Actor Lance Henriksen also told us about the challenges of playing Willis, not least having to deliver many a bigoted diatribe, as well as working with the singular Mortensen.
By Sarah Bradbury. First published on The Upcoming on 4th December 2020.
Falling is released nationwide on 4th December 2020.