Falling Angels (Scott Smith)
For many people, they are a product of their past. They never seem to escape it, and every day is the same, reliving events over and over in the present. Such is the life of Mary Field (Miranda Richardson) who exists in numbed state of bourbon induced purgatory, forever haunted by a family secret that no one speaks of, one that has flatlined her mental state.
Set in the late 60s in Don Mills, the Field family does what most families did at the time, and what many do today: pretend that everything is okay, even when the walls are crumbling down around them. They are perfectly dysfunctional, run by a military style father, Jim Field (Callum Keith Rennie) who is the leader of the game of pretend, and an obvious failure in the eyes of the family and himself.
The opening scene starts with the end of the story or the end of their family as they know it: the funeral of their mother. Working backwards we see what led them to this loss, along with learning more about the characters and their unique and interesting idiosyncrasies.
The oldest daughter Norma (Monte Gagne) is the shy one leaning towards a sexual preference that would take her down the Home Depot aisle if they were around at the time. Lou (Katherine Isabelle) is the rebel, taking up with a revo boyfriend who introduces her to politically oriented poetry and LSD. Then there’s Sandy, who completely envelopes her home-ec class, making her own clothes and dreaming of being the good wife in the kitchen.
Based on the novel that came out in 1991, it took seven years to get from the stage of obtaining the rights, two years of back-and-forth screenplay writing, and 1200 tryouts for the parts of the three girls.
The time and effort paid off.
What’s most intriguing is not just the qualities of the individual characters, but this tug of war that goes on, where each character has their own channels for escaping their reality while collectively wanting to preserve this odd unity of the family and their mother. Through it all they seem to survive because of this juxtaposition — that and the sprinkles of biting wit cast throughout the film. It’s no “feel good movie of the year,” but those types of movies are often lacking in substance and not really worth your time. In Falling Angels, Smith keeps it real.