We were pleasantly surprised by Barbara Albert‘s "Falling," which uses a rickety excuse of a story (the funeral of a beloved high school teacher summoning back five friends who haven’t seen each other for years) to frame a portrait of women at a certain age â€” a set-up so front-loaded for sentimental disaster it’s likely to send most fleeing in the opposite direction.
Which is too bad, because while "Falling" has its creaky moments (mostly dealing with the friends’ failed politics and faded protest days), it also bristles with unresolved and unfeigned emotion. Albert, whose last film was the everyone-is-connected "Free Radicals," is about the same age as her thirty-something characters, and the portrait she presents of female adulthood offers little happiness. The pregnant, cynical Nina, the withdrawn, stricken Brigitte, the aloof Carmen, the needy Alex, and the luckless, oblivious Nicole are all differing degrees of miserable in the tail end of a prolonged girlhood. They approach each other with the wariness of people sure their lives are lacking and equally sure they’re going to be judged as such; over the course of an epic night out, the walls are broken down by reacquaintance and booze. There are the expected revelations about disappointment, growing up and growing apart, but they’re punctured with unflinching moments of almost excruciating vulnerability â€” a sotten Alex, for instance, takes off her shirt to cheers in the midst of a dance floor in a fit of techno-fueled exuberance, and then has to hunt around for it as the music slows.
"Falling" is punctuated by stills that signal a scene about to come, accompanied by the cast singing songs like "We Shall Overcome." It’s a device that’s at first irritating, until suddenly, as the frozen frames start representing things that are either implied or simply imagined, it becomes poignant.
Screens October 9 and 10 at Alice Tully Hall.
+ "Falling" (NYFF)