If I have to choose one grossly underrated actor in Hollywood it would have to be Viggo Mortensen. His body of work, from The Lord Of The Rings and A History Of Violence to Eastern Promises and Green Book, shows Viggo is a startling unpredictable actor with a soprano’s range. Indeed his skills are as fascinating as they are strange. He now makes his directorial debut with a brilliant study of prejudice and homophobia in the present times intercut with bouts of tenderness and heartbreak from the past, bringing the past and the present together in a deeply felt embrace of humanism and forgiving.
Interestingly the ramrod-straight Viggo has cast himself as John a gay man who lives with his husband Eric (Terry Chan) in California with their little daughter. Paradise is lost when John’s aged father Willis (Lance Henriksen) is brought to stay with John and Eric. Their harmonious life is torn asunder by the old man’s insufferable intolerance prejudice and malice.
Willis is quite simply the most un-fatherly father we’ve seen in an American film. His snide comments and his unmistakable contempt for his kind gentle son are so offensive that I often found me asking, would any son bring this monster-father home? Once you get across this hurdle of understanding John’s overbearing goodness, Falling is an immensely satisfying film with scenes and dialogues that you won’t forget in a hurry.
The film has two extra-lengthy conversations, one in the kitchen between the ferociously venomous father and the incredible son, and later an ugly family get-together where Willis, fully in character, repeatedly insults his tearful daughter (Laura Linney, making the best of her thankless cameo) and his two teenaged grandchildren. Finally, the grandson calls the old man an asshole. Something we all want to do at some point while staring at this foul-mouthed …err….asshole. Except that this patriarch is no uni-dimensional bully. The bond that Willis forms with his little granddaughter and in the past, his stormy kabhi-cushy-kabhi-grump relationship with his lovely wife (Hannah Gross) shows that Willis is not completely a lost cause.
Only an actor as wizened and experienced as Lance Henriksen could have pulled off this poisonous patriarch’s performance without making himself look like a snarling villain. Viggo Mortensen steps back as an actor to let Henriksen take center stage. It’s a grand gesture that only a character as generous and giving as John could make.
Falling is brilliantly directed (available on Video On Demand). For a first-timer, Viggo Mortensen never falters even when the characters fumble for the right words to describe overpowering emotions, the tone, mood, and tenor are pitch-perfect. This is a master director at work. So just sit back and watch in wonderment admiration and gratitude.
Directed by Viggo Mortensen, Falling gets 3 and a half stars.
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