Viggo Mortensen and the cast of “Falling” joined Marc Malkin in Variety’s Virtual TIFF Studio presented by Canada Goose to promote the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Despite the timeliness of the film, Mortensen finished writing the screenplay five years ago, following his mother’s death. He said the script was heavily influenced by the life lessons he had picked up from his parents.

In the film, the writer-director also plays a gay man who brings his father Willis (Lance Henriksen) to live with him, his husband (Terry Chen) and their daughter (Gabby Velis). Willis is a conservative farmer who hurls racist, homophobic and misogynistic insults at his family.

Starring in Mortensen’s directorial debut, Hannah Gross spoke to his prioritization of creating a safe space for all actors. She shared her experience acting for the climax of the film, in which her character Gwen cries out loud on the couch.

“First and foremost, the most important thing for a scene like that is to be in an environment where you feel safe to do that and that was what Viggo created every day on set — safe and open and where you can explore vulnerability in a way that feels somewhat pleasurable,” she said.

Mortensen further explained how the family conflict in “Falling” could be seen as a microcosm of today’s polarized America. “Eventually, if one person is inflexible and doesn’t want to change, they start to grow apart and it usually doesn’t work out,” he said. “But certainly if you give up and don’t want to communicate at all and go ‘oh well, I’m never talking to you again or I’m not participating in the political process’ — then there is no hope for anything.”