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Sheesh, a pedophile priest movie that's up for best Canadian picture of the year? No thanks. That was pretty much my initial, eye-roll reaction to this five-time Canadian Screen Awards nominated film: Disgust. I couldn't imagine one single reason to screen and review Fall, until I read a news article citing this feature was inspired by the personal experience of its writer-director Terrance Odette. That was good enough for me. Watching it then offered the potential to see this theme interpreted from a place of possible mature catharsis - if not stylized revenge - without slogging through superficial cliché and exploitation.
Fall is a demanding film. It's demanding because of its subject matter. It's demanding because of its often overly patient pacing. And, it's demanding because much of Odette's fairly minimalistic screenplay seems mired in suggesting sub-text that's sometimes tough to easily tap into. For instance, when Ryan confesses admiration to his sister Sheila (played by Wendy Crewson) that she lives her life as she wants in an early scene, her unimpressed one word response resonates like shorthand with different referential meanings as this story methodically reveals its secrets. Slightly enigmatic, but clever. More dialogue, please.
However, the core strength of Fall comes from Michael Murphy's wonderfully measured starring performance. He presents Ryan as a personable yet tired priest whose solidified self-image as an experienced kind soul of the church is poisoned by doubt. You see he's genuinely shocked he may have done something wrong. There are very few big scenes, though. Much of Murphy's portrayal is conveyed through underplayed expression as Ryan's creeping guilt becomes his internalized purgatory. Fall offers harsh satisfaction in seeing Ryan emotionally eaten alive by the disillusionment that false redemption fostered by his institution of faith protected him, but not his young victim.
Top marks also go to Cas Anvar, Wendy Crewson and Suzanne Clément for their amazing supporting roles here. Anvar and Clément individually enter at separate points in the story as full fleshed out survivors of loss who end up deeply affecting Murphy's journey. None of the supporting cast is on-screen for very long, but these three talents command full attention in every scene they appear in. Awesome. Also notable is the over-all chalky winter feel, as well as the few visually obscured yet insightful moments Norayr Kasper's moody lens saturates the screen with.
While clearly a well-realized group effort, Fall is still a difficult big screen character study to get through. I'm glad I took a chance. Imperfect and definitely not for every movie buff, it's a worthwhile example of English Canadian filmmaking that explores aspects of this horrible theme from a freshly mature perspective. Check it out if you're a fan of serious independent movies with memorably strong cast performances that stick with you long after the closing credits. Reviewed 01/15, © Stephen Bourne, moviequips.ca.
Fall is rated PG by the Ontario
Film Review Board, citing use of expletives, mild sexual references,
non-sexual nudity with no close-ups, scenes that may cause a
child brief anxiety, or fear, limited embracing and kissing,
and tobacco use, and is rated NR by la Régie du Cinéma
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