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  Fall, The Don't Die Just Yet
Year: 2006
Director: Tarsem Singh
Stars: Lee Pace, Catinca Untaru, Justine Waddell, Sean Gilder, Ronald France, Andrew Roussouw, Michael Huff, Grant Swanby, Emil Hostina, Robin Smith, Jeetu Verma, Leo Bill, Marcus Wesley, Julian Bleach, Elvira Deatcu, Daniel Caltagirone
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Little Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) is an immigrant girl in Los Angeles of the 1920s, in hospital after suffering a broken arm and bored waiting for it to heal. She amuses herself by writing notes to her favourite nurse, Evelyn (Justine Waddell), but today the message she throws out of the window to her goes astray, and Evelyn does not have time to go and find it. This leaves Alexandria with a mission, and she heads off in search of it, discovering that it has fallen through an open window and onto the bed of a patient, Roy (Lee Pace), who is a stuntman in the movies. The two strike up a friendship...

But some friendships have ulterior motives, as the girl realises, though not before it's almost too late. Tarsem Singh followed up his visually striking but dramatically leaden The Cell with this, an adaptation of an earlier Bulgarian film, Yo Ho Ho, that turned out to be a far more satisfying vehicle for his talent with singular imagery. At once a tale of innocence betrayed then redeemed and the relation between fantasy and reality, the imaginative aspects stem from the story that Roy tells Alexandria, at first we think to pass the time and amuse her, but later we see a more self-destructive motive to his actions.

For that first half, we are watching a pleasant enough plot about a friendship between a man and a little girl, and Untaru is quite remarkable here, both charming and natural so that you cannot conceive of the film being quite as good without her. Pace equals her with a performance that reveals a lot of pain in his character's mind, so that once the film within a film is underway, we begin to pick out details that have connections to the problems he is suffering in real life, chiefly that now he is paralysed, his girlfriend has taken up with the star of the movie he was working on.

Thus the fairy tale Roy spins to Alexandria features a band of plucky but betrayed men, led by a masked bandit, also played by Pace, who, in the manner of such things, are cast with the same actors that the girl has encountered as people in her life at the hospital. These adventurers - including a young Charles Darwin (Leo Bill) with his monkey friend - are out to have their vengeance on Governor Odious (Daniel Caltagirone) who for one thing has taken the masked bandit's bride-to-be away from him. The locations Singh found for these sequences were from all over the world, and such years of globetrotting truly paid off with some spectacular visuals.

But then things turn far darker as it grows clear that Roy is using Alexandria to secure a bottle of morphine for him, medication he is not allowed. She is so innocent that she believes him when he says he simply wants it to help him sleep, but what he has in mind is suicide, not being able to face life without love or the use of his body. At first, she does get him a bottle, but leaves only three pills in it, misinterpreting him, though he manages to persuade her to steal more from the patient across the ward, and things are looking bleak. But The Fall has a knack of transforming such dejection into a message of hope, and while that message may include a warning not to let a depressive tell children's stories, there's a feeling that fiction can prepare you for the tragedies of life, and that fantasy is essential to help us through our darkest times. By the second half, the film has turned unexpectedly moving, and you genuinely feel improved for having watched its admitted extravagance. Music by Krishna Levy.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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