After injury forces her out of her job as a professional dancer, Lauren (Katherine Crockett) finds herself married, with a newborn she can’t bring herself to name yet, pining for her day’s of glory. Much to her husband’s chagrin, Lauren attempts to reconnect with her former dance company. Unfortunately, her time away from the company has left her weak, and the style of dance has changed considerably.
Sheila (Daphne Rubin-Vega) is also a former dance company member, though her life has taken a different turn. While her day job is teaching children at a dance studio, she’s more of a wild child otherwise. When she meets Lauren one night, she suggests that Lauren come visit her studio, not thinking much of it. That is, until Lauren shows up and Sheila decides to help Lauren regain her place in the company, whipping Lauren into shape and assisting with Lauren’s child, when necessary.
Following one’s dreams is difficult, and oftentimes arguably selfish; Jayce Bartok’s Fall To Rise doesn’t shy away from this. Lauren can’t let go of her past, but she can’t seem to focus enough on the present to name her own child. Sheila is likewise haunted by her own past, though not in the sense that she is trying to recapture glory lost. Instead, there’s a sense of redemption she’s seeking, whether she’s aware of it or not. Of course, nothing is easy, and both Lauren and Sheila are forced to figure out what it exactly is that they want, and what they are willing to do, and lose, to get it.
The choice of pursuing a career as a professional dancer is specific to the film, but the ideas and conflicts associated are universal, and that’s where the film is going to work the best, because you can relate regardless. I know nothing about dance, and seeing a professional dance company perform, honestly, does little for me. However, I do know what it is like to make the difficult decisions that surround following one’s dreams, and the work involved. So the film works on more than just the dance specific elements of the narrative.
Also, putting the dream chasing aside, most of us can also relate to the feeling of wanting to redeem or change our lives for the better. This isn’t just Lauren’s tale; Sheila carries a large, significant chunk of the narrative and emotional baggage (and you could argue that she’s the main character, though I like to think of it as primarily split amongst the two).
These universal themes and ideas are what makes the film successful on a base level, but the performances are what elevate it. Rubin-Vega’s Sheila is of particular note, as she shows an impressive range throughout. Likewise, Crockett’s Lauren excels, as she is tasked with not only carrying some dramatic weight, but also convince us that she’s a dancer that people would marvel at. In the end, everyone rises to the occasion, major and minor roles alike, to bring the film together in solid fashion.