Jaclyn Bethany writes and directs The Falling World. While there are thriller aspects, the film is a drama centered around a group of college students getting away for fall break. Hadley (executive producer Isabella Chester) brings her friends from law school to her family’s vacation mansion upstate. Lark (Ayumi Patterson) is the newest addition to the bunch, being in her first semester at law school. But, everyone seems excited to have her along and do their best to make Lark feel included.
That is true, save for the secret the rest are keeping from her. Lark hears Baxter (Joshua David Robinson) commenting under his breath, while Arthur (Michael Rabe) seems more tense than usual. Maeve (Kaley Ronayne) tells Lark that the last time everyone was here, a woman, Jill (Anna Crivelli), went missing. It is still an open investigation, though Jill’s brother, Professor Bennett (Jonathan Kaplan), who’s in love with Hadley, is convinced that there’s more to her disappearance than anyone lets on.
At first, The Falling World seems to be set in the late 1950s or early 60s, based on how the characters are dressed and the car being driven. But, once everyone settles into the house, it is clear that these people are wealthy and therefore enjoy expensive and classic items. It eventually comes through that the film is set in the early 90s, but if an audience member is trying to pin it down, they’ll be unable to for a while, as it is not immediately clear.
Why is that an issue? Well, because it’s odd not seeing someone look up a disappearance on their computer or phone. Definitively setting up the era earlier on would help with this. Yes, cell phones weren’t a thing in the 50s, but when clearly anachronistic things pop up, that timeframe gets thrown out the window. As such, it is very difficult to understand why Lark does not do certain actions until halfway through the 72-minute runtime.
“Lark hears Baxter commenting under his breath, while Arthur seems more tense than usual.”
With that being said, The Falling World proves to be an engaging little drama about people discovering who they truly are. The screenplay ensures that the dialogue does not feel like exposition, even when it definitely is. Making Lark the audience surrogate allows for information everyone else knows to be cleanly delivered without interrupting the pace. Once Jill’s disappearance becomes the focus, the free-flowing lines still feel naturalistic but seem to have a greater sense of weight and urgency.
Chester embodies the seemingly spoiled but shockingly deep Hadley easily. She plays her emotions close to the vest without ever feeling like a robot, which is a tightrope act. Patterson makes Lark’s mysterious actions make total sense while sharing great chemistry with all her co-stars. Kaplan brings real pathos to his role as the exasperated Bennett. Ronayne and Robinson are so much fun together that they should always be cast side by side.
However, it is Lucy Walters as Margot, Hadley’s older sister, who just about walks away with every scene she’s in. A late-night conversation between her and Lark is filled with sincerity and regret. A later scene where Hadley begs Margot to come back, is surprisingly emotional. Walters is an A-list star in the making.
The Falling World is an absorbing drama populated by deep characters in over their heads. The finale is pitch perfect and pays everything off unexpectedly, but honestly. While determining when the movie is set takes some time, which begs the question of what people are or aren’t doing XYZ, it does not matter overall. Filmmaker Bethany is making some big, profound statements, and a minor issue should not deter one from watching the film as soon as possible.
"…an absorbing drama populated by deep characters..."