In The Fall

****1/2

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Based on a short story by Alistair MacLeod, In The Fall moves the tale from the wilds of Canada to the islands of Scotland. Presented as a seeming single take, Tom Gentle's film leans heavily on Alan McLaughlin's cinematography which ably shoulders the burden of both setting and steadicam.

Shown at Glasgow's 2019 Short Film Festival twice, as part of Scottish Competition for which it received an honourable mention and winning what may be the last Blueprint Audience award, it's a stunning film. In Q&As (including one at the Blueprint screening that focussed on technique and the apparatus unique to cinema (however long)) tales of the film's production helped shed light - filmed on Hoy during 2018's 'Beast From The East' in a location described by its scout as looking like the end of the world, the looping camera does not rest, skirling and swirling like the snow and ever present waves.

That seeming single take isn't quite - there are a few tricks borrowed from Rope, and at least one moment that's a halter - I stopped to note in my wee book "how was [it] done?" and the answer that came in Q&A was "about five grand". That's chicken feed in features, but a huge amount in short film terms, but it paid off - a window into ambition, an escalation in a film that spirals through a house and home as death makes an appointment.

Lewis McGowan's Callum is gangly and awkward and angry, showing his talent in a career with some variety even if he's the only one of the quartet never to have appeared in Taggart. Scottish television stalwart Stuart Bowman plays his father, weary and wary, the tone of a moment of blasphemy notable for what follows, Susan Coyle's Mairi is bound not just by landscape but the constraints of this small outpost, but it's Macrae (Brian Ferguson, also in Glasgow (Feature) Film Festival closing film Beats) who brings with him upset. Red of hair (and later face) he holds the whip-hand in negotiations and is callous enough to use it.

A four-hander, though there's also a (taller) horse, this could feel stagy. Literary adaptations are at best difficult but there's a real achievement in making something quite as troubling look so effortless. Having seen it twice I find there is an efficiency to its foreshadowing. In prose there is often the luxury to go back to every word and weigh it, in poetry there is a need for ruthlessness as there is not the money to run out the meter, but film - framing a story is hard enough, but each element here must support another. The horse won't weather another winter, and it's more than coldness that compels.

Reviewed on: 18 Mar 2019
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Faced with the ageing of his faithful workhorse, a man is forced to confront his own mortality and consider a sacrifice to ensure his family's survival.

Director: Tom Gentle

Year: 2018

Runtime: 16 minutes

Country: UK

Festivals:

GSFF 2019

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