Most of us have probably had fantasies of returning to our hometown after a lengthy absence and rubbing our newfound success in the faces of everyone who ever slighted us. We would prance down the street in a top hat and tails, using our aristocratic accents to ironically greet our former schoolteachers and bullies, all of whom are now living between concrete and old newspapers. When they beg us for some spare change, we would pull out a hundred-dollar bill and blow our noses with it. It would be wrong, but it would feel so very satisfying.
That’s not what the future has in store for young Jon (Dashiell Wolf). At the beginning of Fall City, directed by Nathan D. Lee, Jon finds himself returning home for the holidays with a black cloud over his head. He spends much of the movie doing the sad Charlie Brown walk. He has no car, no home, and, worst of all, no prospects. The only thing he does have is a criminal record, which might as well be an anvil tied to his ankle. After a good deal of moping, Jon stumbles upon Olivia (Meranda Long), the living embodiment of sleepy, small-town kindness. Through her, Jon may able to shake the fleas from his life and recapture the sense of potential that powered his youth.
“Through her, Jon may able to shake the fleas from his life and recapture the sense of potential that powered his youth.”
In the spirit of many well-known Christmas movies, Fall City is all about redemption and the restorative value of unconditional charity. Just reading those words might fill your heart with warmth and peppermint-flavored wonder, but the movie itself runs these feelings into the ground, like that old lady who was trampled by that feral reindeer. The silly Charlie Brown walks have already been mentioned, but once Jon and Olivia begin their friendship, the movie becomes far too precious about itself. There’s wearing your heart on your sleeve, and then there’s shoving your heart in the audience’s face. Any hope of witnessing the delicate characterization of a local loser is quickly squashed.
However, that’s not to say that the movie wouldn’t play well in the background during the holidays. It’s okay for children, and there are heartwarming messages abound. Some of the performances are rigid, but Long makes for a convincing light at the end of the tunnel. But for someone who wants more than yuletide ambiance—something to engage your brain for an hour and a half might be nice—you’ll find little to chew on.
If Fall City were a Christmas present, it wouldn’t be so bad as a lump of coal; a coffee table book is closer to the mark. You’re not going to throw it away—and you might even give it a moment of your attention—but you immediately recognize its uselessness and mourn the space that it will take up. While the movie won’t take up any space, it will take your time. And time and space are—literally—all you have. Don’t give them away to coffee table books.
Fall City (2018) Directed by Nathan D. Lee. Written by Nathan D. Lee, Erich Cannon. Starring Dashiell Wolf, Meranda Long, Paul Ryan Hobson, Riley Hardy, Brace Evans, Carrie Wrigley, Timothy Threlfall, Thomas Carroll, Kai Findley, David Maloney.
3 out of 10 stars