The Falls [DVD]
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Gay-themed drama in which two missionaries fall for each other. Two religious young men, RJ (Nick Ferrucci) and Elder (Quinn Allan), leave home and head to Oregon where they begin to teach the words of Joseph Smith to the residents of a small town. Living and working together, they begin to develop feelings for one another but acting on them will mean forsaking their community.
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Another difference is that in `Latter Days' the relationship was between a Mormon and an outsider (quite a frivolous character ) but in this version we see the relationship blossom between two missionaries forced to live together while away from home on the mission. They are eager at first but grow a bit weary with it all and have to contend with the feelings they have for one another but cannot express. It's the adverse or indifferent reactions of some of the people they come across - in particular an Iraqi veteran - which softens them up a bit and makes them question themselves. Eventually of course they become overwhelmed by their own feelings and end up kissing in a wood on the way home from a day's work. They are only 20 years old and have very limited personal experience of relationships outside the family.
Whereas the family of the missionary in `Latter Days' feel intensely ashamed of their son and take steps they feel would 'help' him change, the family in this film, although not enthusiastic about the situation they find themselves in (they too will be ostracised by the community) they accept their son's realisation of his sexuality and keep him in the family unit. The veiled admission by his father that he `knew of a missionary' who had the same feelings but buried them and got married is done well as you can see the son getting embarrassed while it should be the other way round.
By the writer's admission, this is a slow film. It is intended to be. There is no Hollywood drama and it was done with a crew of 4. There isn't the overt sexuality that was clearly evident in `Latter Days' as the two young men know really nothing about that world or even what is involved in their own sexual relations. It is done in an almost documentary way in some parts with a hand held camera and a voice over breaking into the run of the film. It is however seamlessly done.
One scene towards the end of the film is particularly poignant. One of the missionaries who is telling his story before an equivalent of a Mormon bishop breaks down. He feels he has been let down by an institution he has loved. It has `left him nowhere else to go' and he feels he is being cast out into an uncaring world yet he does not reject the beliefs he has in his church. How the other Elder Merrill reacts we are not told. The end of the film is quite pleasant but not as one would expect. We are lead to guess what their futures will be.
Overall I would recommend this film if only to see the strange world the young men have to live in and the constraints put on them. Add a layer of gayness to this and you get some idea of how difficult it must be to come out the other side in any way sane. It is a hopeful movie though. Very hopeful and endearing. A fireside. A bottle of wine and a quiet Sunday evening and you're made!
The two lead actors are pretty close to perfect in their roles--making the viewer understand their dilemma and hoping for the best possible outcome. Secondary characters are often equally strong--particularly an Iraq army vet who serves as a kind of anti-missionary for them and helps them take a step toward a different world.
Highly enjoyable, without being preachy or overly critical of religion.
On their converting missions they happen upon the door of a Vietnam veteran called Rodney (Brian Allard) who has the most amazing voice and was my favourite character. He helps them realise there is more to life that nice teeth and clean shirts. Well they start to have feelings for each other but as Mormon's aren't exactly into the `summer of free love' type ethos it is pretty obvious that their new found `companionship' is going to bring a lot of grief.
I actually liked this film but there are a few howevers, and the first one is production values. This is a small budget film and as such you know there will be some issues. The first was background noise, we have squeaking floor boards and variations in the sound level as this has been obviously taped live with the acting, which I do not have a problem with and it gives it a kind of doco drama feel to the whole thing. There are a couple of plot holes that had me harrumphing a bit but they are not too obvious.
There is no bedroom Olympics either which I was sort of looking forward to as I was feeling shallow when I watched this, but on the strong point there was an attempt to examine the theology that gives credence to out dated homophobic reactions which was sadly missed in `The Seminarian'. At 89 minutes long it does keep you involved but this will never make a best films ever list - sorry. I am being generous at 4 stars but as I said I actually liked it but not everyone will as is the way with things, but I hope you do.
The film is at times quite slow, the acting mostly good and I would describe it as a hopeful and endearing film. Hopeful because RJ's family supports him. We are, however, never told anything about how Chris's family reacted and that is a flaw. Buy 'Latter Days' and compare the films. 'Latter Days' gave me a deeper impression but 'The Falls' is also a very good film.
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