Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"This may be cheesy stuff, but it's handled with a sincerity that will charm fans of the books and teenagers looking for a bit of light escapism."

Fallen is one of those films that arrives on screens burdened with a heavy weight of expectation, as an adaptation of the best-selling young adult novel by Lauren Kate. Part Dantean fan fiction, part teenage wish fulfilment, it follows the fortunes of a teenage girl unfairly sent to a reform school - a girl who finds her life spiralling further our of control when she finds herself torn between two boys who both seem to have supernatural powers.

Lucinda (Addison Timlin) is a girl who has powers of her own, though she'd rather not - she brings ill luck to those who get close to her. Haunted by shadow-like things which various psychiatrists and counsellors insist are a product of mental illness, she struggles to believe in herself. In a vulnerable state and separated from everyone she knows, she's an easy target for bullies, creepy teachers, and guys much older than they look whose plans for her don't leave a lot of room for her to have a personality of her own.

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Timlin works hard with what she's given but there's no getting around the fact that her character is essentially a cypher for viewers/readers to project themselves onto. Finding true love happens easily for her with no effort involved, as she's the reincarnation of somebody who has already done all that. She's under a curse, of course, but many of her peers probably feel the same way about their lives. To add to the teenage magazine fantasy factor, she has to choose between a wholesome but angstful golden-haired youth (Jeremy Irvine) and a pouty black-haired boy who might be a little bit dangerous (Harrison Gilbertson). She also gets the ego trip of having the fate of all Creation depending on her, again with no actual work required.

This may be cheesy stuff, but it's handled with a sincerity that will charm fans of the books and teenagers looking for a bit of light escapism. The costumes and setting are pretty, the background of the War in Heaven is spun out like a soap opera, and the actors are all competent enough within the bounds of their roles, Joely Richardson making a meal of the only really complex character. Irvine and Gilbertson may lack the gravitas necessary to make their characters believable but they no doubt function well enough as eye candy for the intended audience. The music does the heavy lifting when it comes to emotion, soaring to heights they can't; to older viewers it may seem over the top, but it seems to hit the spot for fans.

The biggest problem the film has is with its special effects. A troubled production led to it being finished in haste, and it shows. What we get may be suitably sparkly but it looks too cartoonish to convince and this means that key fight sequences lack the physicality they need. One hopes that the planned sequel (all the more important after a rather abrupt ending) manages to improve on them without awkward disconnection.

Despite its limitations, this is a pretty faithful adaptation of the book, which is what most viewers will be looking for. It lays the ground rules effectively for what may comes after.

Reviewed on: 06 Sep 2017
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A teenager sent to reform school for a crime she didn't commit finds herself torn between two prospective boyfriends with whom she feels a mysterious connection.

Director: Scott Hicks

Writer: Michael Arlen Ross, Kathryn Price

Starring: Addison Timlin, Joely Richardson, Hermione Corfield, Lola Kirke, Jeremy Irvine

Year: 2016

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: US, Hungary


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