You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Toronto 2021: The Falls movie review – pandemic drama by A Sun director Chung Mong-hong contemplates life’s surprises and disappointments

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 16/9/2021
a person wearing a blue shirt: Alyssa Chia in a still from The Falls. Photo: courtesy of TIFF Alyssa Chia in a still from The Falls. Photo: courtesy of TIFF

3.5/5 stars

A divorced mother and her teenage daughter overcome their fraught relationship and rediscover their trust in each other in The Falls, filmed in 2020 during the Covid-19 outbreak in Taiwan.

Chung Mong-hong's follow-up to his multiple Golden Horse Award winner A Sun tells an unusually restrained domestic story, headed by two women - an anomaly for a filmmaker whose work displays an obsession with crime and criminals.

Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.

The Falls pits its protagonists against both mental illness and the harsh new realities of a pandemic, and takes a darkly comic look at the disappointments and surprises life throws up.

Replay Video

Alyssa Chia Jing-wen (The World Between Us) impresses as Pin-wen, the single mother of 18-year-old student Xiao Jing (Gingle Wang Ching, Detention) and a top executive at a multinational firm, where she's working under intense pressure.

Pin-wen's life takes a turn into psychological mystery when she is forced to self-quarantine in the luxurious apartment she shares with her daughter, who displays alternately hostile and creepy behaviour.

Alyssa Chia standing next to a woman: Alyssa Chia (left) and Gingle Wang in a still from The Falls. Photo: courtesy of TIFF © Provided by South China Morning Post Alyssa Chia (left) and Gingle Wang in a still from The Falls. Photo: courtesy of TIFF

It is only after Pin-wen suffers a proper mental breakdown that Xiao Jing realises her mother has been imagining things, including an impending reunion with her ex-husband, Qi-wen (Lee Lee-zen), that is never going to happen.

The girl approaches her estranged father for help, but is thoroughly disgusted by the discovery that Qi-wen's son with his new wife was born long before he divorced Pin-wen three years earlier.

Keen to protect her mother, but still far too young and inexperienced to handle Pin-wen's financial troubles on her behalf, Xiao Jing encounters one setback after another. When the mother accidentally sets their apartment on fire and is admitted to hospital and diagnosed as psychotic, the daughter has only the family's part-time housecleaner (Yang Li-yin) to turn to for emotional support.

a man standing in front of a window: Gingle Wang in a still from The Falls. Photo: courtesy of TIFF © Provided by South China Morning Post Gingle Wang in a still from The Falls. Photo: courtesy of TIFF

The Falls is a mundane yet oddly engaging film that relies on Chia and Wang's quietly touching performances to sustain the narrative through bursts of unexpected drama - a visit to a grocery that escalates into physical altercations, a real estate transaction that results in one agent slamming another, Pin-wen suddenly becoming the subject of an awkward supermarket manager's (A Sun's Chen Yi-wen) affections.

As director and co-screenwriter (with Chang Yao-sheng), Chung arguably uses too heavy a metaphor for the pandemic experience when he gives Pin-wen's apartment a striking blue tint - courtesy of a construction tarp enclosing the building - for the film's first half. Then again, his simple, reassuring message to the audience is always there, and in capital letters, on Xiao Jing's favourite T-shirt: "Don't sweat it."

Want more articles like this? Follow SCMP Film on Facebook

More Articles from SCMP

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

More from South China Morning Post

South China Morning Post
South China Morning Post
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon