DVD Review - Fall (2017)

Writer-director Terrance Odette sets his film in the winter of 2013 in Sault Ste. Marie, a city in Ontario, Canada, just across the border of northern Michigan. Odette opens with a shot driving through a snowy road bounded by a snowy forest. The film then begins to follow the day-to-day of a Catholic priest at a church. Throughout we see him not only perform his rituals and sermons, but we also see him counsel various people who attend or who are members of the parish. The priest's life is upended when he receives word from a former parishioner who claims to have been sexually molested.

This film premiered in 2014 in Vancouver. As it rolls out nationwide in the U.S., it hearkens back to another film, which also premiered in 2014. Some might recall John Michael McDonagh's Calvary. It too focused on a priest in Ireland who counsels various people in his town, while also juggling news of a man who admits to being molested by a priest.

The difference between McDonagh and Odette is the mystery surrounding that molestation and the man abused. McDonagh keeps the identity of the abused man at bay but makes sure there's no question that the molestation was real and did occur. Odette does the reverse almost. He keeps the molestation as a bit of a question mark, and instead of at bay, the abused man's identity is clear. Both films keep the abused man as not an active character for the most part. The abused man is more of a specter that haunts the men in both McDonagh and Odette's films.

Cas Anvar (left) plays a gay man counseled by
Father Ryan, played by Michael Murphy in 'Fall'
Michael Murphy (An Unmarried Woman and Tanner '88) stars as Father Sam Ryan, a man apparently in his seventies. He has family with whom he talks on the phone. He has a friend with whom he chats, but he seems to live a rather lonely life otherwise. It doesn't seem that uncommon for a priest of his age, but even he seems less personally engaged, withdrawn somehow. Even when he's helping people, Murphy possesses either in his face or eyes a certain sadness.

Suzanne Clément (Mommy and Laurence Anyways) plays Catherine, the sister of Christopher. She accuses Father Ryan of molesting her brother. She even threatens to call the police. She expresses definite hatred. She spews definite venom at him. Her brother never gets to confront the priest, but through Catherine, one feels Christopher's pain, the bone-cutting pain. Unfortunately, Odette only gives her one scene.

Odette also makes Christopher a lung-cancer patient who isn't able to confront the priest at all. The ghost of Christopher merely looms over Father Ryan and even Catherine. Both are seemingly wracked with guilt, but, for different reasons, and both manifest it in vastly different ways. Of course, the movie is more concerned with Father Ryan who handles the guilt in manners not unexpected and possibly predictable.

What some might find frustrating is the question of molestation is arguably left unanswered. Catherine is convinced. The power of that alone could be the clincher, but Father Ryan does deny the accusations, but a later vision or memory reveals a relationship that might have been consensual. Whether or not, it still could have been an abuse of power. Christopher's recollections are unclear. Yet, Odette leaves it there.

Numerous shots frame Father Ryan against the Niagara Falls. Odette invokes the undeniable nature of the rushing water, attractive yet possibly destructive, beautiful but potentially deadly. It could in fact be a metaphor of the struggle inside Father Ryan, the struggle of sexual desire itself. The Niagara Falls also remind how powerless one can be to certain forces in the world, be it sexual attraction or something else. The final scene though isn't of those falls. The final scene could in fact be a confirmation of Father Ryan's ultimate guilt, be it real or imagined. It's a shot of a winter landscape as white and as wide as the eye can see. It could be that Father Ryan's guilt is that landscape. It's as cold and as consuming as the arctic snow.

Not Rated but contains language and nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 21 mins.


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