The Falls

COVID quarantine has been tough on a lot of us. Isolation is difficult, but being stuck with people you dislike can be just as destructive.

Mother-daughter Pin-wen (Alyssa Chia) and Xiao Jing (Gingle Wang) are already not in a great place. Xiao Jing is a surly teenager, Pin-wen works hard to support their two-person household. They don’t get along, there’s resentment flowing both ways; Xiao Jing tends to lock herself in her room a lot, and maybe that’s for the best.

But then: COVID. Xiao Jing is exposed at school and forced the quarantine. Finally, a legit excuse to hide in her bedroom, no questions asked. But when Pin-wen loses her job and is also at home full-time, things start to deteriorate. Like too many others, Pin-wen’s mental health suffers during the pandemic’s forced isolation. Xiao Jing notices small signs that things aren’t going well, but what can she do?

Movies tell stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. In 2020, all 7+ billion of us on the planet started living in extraordinary circumstances. These were unprecedented times. Every single one of us built pathways through dark times, improvising along the way. Pin-wen’s illness means Xiao Jing has to grow up and find solutions to problems that never should have been hers to deal with. This pandemic has affected us in so many ways, many of which we won’t begin to understand for years down the line. Watching this mother-daughter duo navigate tough times reminds us of how much we ourselves have had to adapt. This is an act of compassion, both for these two women, stronger than they know, and for ourselves, who’ve been through the ringer too.

Writer-director Mong-Hong Chung lensed the film himself, did so much of this himself, poured himself into a project during a time that begged for stories to be told, so he did. Chung knows that he can afford to be subtle here, it helps us to relate, and perhaps for the first time, this is a film where we can all relate. Not everyone will want to be reminded of the hardships they faced during the pandemic, but for those who don’t mind, this is a quiet but moving little film.

The Falls is an official selection of TIFF 2021

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