Carol Morley (2014)
are hugely political spaces, not just because of what may, or may not,
be taught, but because of their potential to impose relationships and
regulations that seek to bend young individuals to some desired shape in
preparation for the ‘outside’ adult world.
there is oppression there is resistance too, of course. The student
protagonists of The Falling pick obsessively, habitually, at the
plasterboard walls of their all-girl institution, a tic against the
ticks and crosses of their over-structured education that ultimately
breaks out of a filmic symbolism into a rebellion of greater substance.
Morley’s sharply visualised and rather wonderful story is set in 1969,
at a turning point in society’s attitudes to the way young women ought
to be. Schoolgirl Abbie (Florence Pugh) has discovered sex, and she
likes it. It takes her to “another place”, she says. Anywhere but
here would do, we suppose.
wears her skirt higher than the regulation two inches above the knee, as
measured with a school ruler on her hands and knees by the visibly
repressed Miss Mantel (Greta Scacchi). It’s hard to say which of the
two is most humiliated by this.
escalate even higher up Abbie’s thigh when she finds herself pregnant.
“My body has become a situation,” she says, perceptively. But before
that situation develops any further she falls, this time literally,
triggering other girls, along with one of the younger, more sympathetic
teachers, to gracefully faint away at all sorts of inconvenient moments.
is, however, no mere inconvenience for head teacher Miss Alvaro (Monica
Dolan). Her initial response, casual, dismissive, puffing absently on a
cigarette in front of her pupils (which would be the great transgression
today) is soon replaced by terror. Falling over has become a form of
disobedience that challenges the very existence of her world.
to defend the system Miss Alvaro plays the target-the-ringleader tactic,
singling out Abbie’s best friend Lydia (Maisie Williams) and
threatening her with expulsion.
Falling’s focus turns to Lydia’s home life. She shares a cramped
two-up, two-down with her agoraphobic mother Eileen (Maxine Peake) and
sexually predatory brother Kenneth (Joe Cole).
like Miss Mantel, is emotionally imprisoned by a nasty event in her
past, and seems to care only for hair and make-up, her out-of-fashion
beehive alaquered fortress against the winds of life.
after being somewhat in the shadow of the glamorous Abbie, is by now
acquiring a heroic status, bucking system and taboo alike. She claws at
walls real and symbolic, but beyond them are more walls.
send in a psychiatrist, significantly one of the few male characters,
who tries to categorise and codify Lydia’s ‘illness’ to gain
she’s already grasping the political, and tragic, dimensions of her
fall, haunted by fleeting images of Millais’ Opheliathat wreathe in and
out of the film. Ophelia, whose beautiful, watery
death promises to dissolve the oppressive structures that seek to bind
and limit Lydia’s wild womanhood.
final scene seems predetermined, yet Morley snatches us back from the
brink to live, perhaps, a life better for the experience.
Journalism... Research... Awards Judging... Pub Business Advice... Pub