Writer-director Richard Dutcher’s patented form of Mormon noir reaches the bursting point in “Falling,” an urban thriller so abounding in contempo mood and memorably savage violence that it will be read broadly as Dutcher’s farewell to Latter-day Saints cinema. There’s no ascendancy and all descent in this tale of a Los Angeles videographer and his aspiring-actress wife, both done in by the city’s mean streets. General auds with no knowledge of the helmer’s religious roots will miss the pic’s faith-based complications, making it easier for the pic to reach the wider public Dutcher clearly desires, particularly those content with homevid.
The underlying crisis appears quickly, as Eric (Dutcher himself) releases and revives a woman hanging by her neck in his dining room, then sends a stream of expletives skyward. Obviously unperturbed by what the LDS community (or at least the portion that has been his aud base until now) will think, Dutcher flashes back four days to the funeral of Eric’s colleague in the videography hustle — in which those armed with vid cameras sell footage of the latest crimes and disasters to the highest bidders on the local news circuit.
Eric’s quiet respite from the stream of daily chaos is being at home with wife Davey (Virginia Reece). Latter discovers she’s pregnant, but keeps Eric in the dark — a futile act that leads to one of several physically severe scenes. Davey’s drive for stardom is haphazardly staged, but reps a reasonably honest glimpse at the seamier side of life endured by out-of-work actors.
Dutcher’s script tends to be rigidly graphed when laying out the parallels between Eric’s and Davey’s day-to-day existences, both hinging on darker sides of showbiz and media. Countering this, however, is a rigorous filmmaking aesthetic with an energetic camera package (with yeoman work by skilled lenser Jim Orr) and a deliberate lack of music that lends the second half a strong, brutal severity.
Things turn badly just as Eric and Davey think they’ve hit success — Eric with a terrible street attack he happens to stumble upon, Davey with a winning audition that requires her to disrobe for the camera. When Eric’s vid airs, the range of shocked and emotional responses among his and Davey’s friends becomes an ingenious way of observing the moral spectrum — and how men respond quite differently from women.
“Falling” manages to develop a dimension as a story of a once-religious man (Eric, glimpsed briefly in flashbacks, was a Mormon missionary in his youth) whose capacity for violence explosively surfaces. First, with Davey, and later, in a grueling, hyper-real gang fight, Dutcher’s Eric seems to come face-to-face with his inner animal.
As a little-known actor playing an unknown one, Reece has some terrific scenes that feel lived in the moment. Dutcher leads a strong cast, benefiting from access to the Los Angeles talent pool far from Utah.