TIFF 2021 | The Falls (Chung Mong-hong, Taiwan)

By Shelly Kraicer

Many recent films take COVID-era quarantining as a premise to examine lonely humans and their difficulties connecting, but Chung Mong-hong’s The Falls does something quite special. This story of a cloistered family allows the Taiwanese director—who has heretofore specialized in blackly comic portraits of men under intense stress—to open up his world to richly conceived female characters, and it turns out he’s really good at it. A wealthy Taipei clan seems to be initially off balance but more or less stable in the early days of the pandemic, until the high school-aged daughter, Xiao Jing, is forced home by a classmate’s positive test, where she is forced to confront her mother’s increasingly unstable mental state and her father’s virtual disappearance. While Gingle Wang gives an impressive performance as Xiao Jing, it’s Alyssa Chia as the mother who emerges as the film’s MVP: her magnificent, subtly etched, deeply moving incarnation of a mentally ill middle-aged woman in existential distress is unforgettable.

More from the Magazine