It’s 1969 and Abbie Mortimer (Florence Pugh) and Lydia Lamont (Maisie Williams) are best friends at a rural English girls’ school. Such best pals that they carve their names together in the ancient oak that overhangs a magical pond and vow never to lose touch. Then Abbie goes and ruins it all by getting pregnant. As if that wasn’t bad enough Abbie’s morning sickness escalates into a fatal bout of fainting and fitting.
Distressed Lydia finds some solace in her occult obsessed older brother Kenneth (Joe Cole), but then she too starts fainting and twitching. Before long all her pals arte doing it as well and then Miss Charron (Morfydd Clark) her art teacher keels over. As Lydia confronts the authority figures around her in an effort to discover the truth, old secrets emerge and Lydia finds herself facing up to a truth she certainly didn’t see coming.
Based partially on an outbreak of mass hysterical fainting in a Blackburn school in the 1960s, Director Carol Morley has imbued each incident with repressed sexuality through a highly codified system of gestures and exchanged glances amongst the girls, That isn’t to say there isn’t any humour in The Falling. the characterisation of the teachers conforms to the usual stereotypes of dippy art teacher, sadistic games teacher etcetera, and the chain-smoking head mistress, Miss Alvaro (Monica Dolan) is darkly viscious. There is also fabulous incident of a disrupted assembly complete with a typically well meaning, but altogether boring guest speaker. There are some terrific performances in the movie particularly from Game of Thrones alumni Williams, Greta Scaachi as the by-the-rules deputy head Miss Mantel and Maxine Peake as Lydia’s agoraphobic mother.
Having been at school in the 1960s and 70s I can confidently say that the props, costumes and set design perfectly evoke the sense of period. This is complemented by Tracey Thorn’s folky soundtrack, while the cinematography of the oak and pond is positively Pre-Raphaelite in its sensuality.
Enigmatic, shocking and funny I give The Falling a 666/666
The Falling was released in the UK on Blu-ray (£19.99) and DVD (£15.99) on 24 August
Extras: Carol Morley’s short film The Madness of the Dance