DVD Review: The Falling – Old secrets rise as childhood takes a dive

Mark Reynolds

Carol Morley’s atmospheric suspense feature is a supernatural coming-of age tale exploring tensions between the generations in late-1960s rural England.

Lydia Lamont (Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams) and Abbie Mortimer (newcomer Florence Pugh) are the best of friends at a strict English girls’ school. As they carve their initials together in the bark of a giant oak, Lydia has a sense of foreboding that Abbie is being pulled away from her, and those fears soon come home to roost.

The school falls under the spell of a mysterious fainting epidemic, and Lydia is at its centre, bending the ear of stiff Deputy Head Miss Mantel (Greta Scacchi) and disinterested headmistress Miss Alvaro (Monica Dolan), who are both convinced the girls are play-acting. When the sympathetic young art teacher Miss Charron (Morfydd Clark) also succumbs, all the sufferers are sent to hospital for inconclusive tests.

The Falling

Lydia’s home life is still more confrontational. Mum Eileen (Maxine Peake) is an at-home hairdresser who never ventures beyond her four walls, and is abrupt and uncommunicative with Lydia and her elder brother Kenneth (Joe Cole). Lydia’s ever more extreme actions cause Eileen to vent like never before, blurting out a shocking secret she’d intended to take to the grave.

The stunning cinematography of Agnès Godard and a haunting folk-horror score by Tracey Thorn that channels the girls’ makeshift Alternative School Orchestra add a perfectly judged, edgy eeriness that keeps viewers guessing whether the strange illness might be the work of ley lines running under the school grounds or is just an out-of-control attention-seeking prank. But the dynamite revelation that elucidates all Eileen’s previous monosyllabic bottling up ultimately blows all theories out of the water.

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