By Diana Beechener
On a routine climb, Becky (Grace Caroline Currey: Most Guys Are Losers) watches her husband plunge to his death. A year later, she’s still not accepted his death. Becky spends her days mooning over her husband’s old voicemail message, weeping in bars, and ignoring her concerned father’s phone calls.
Becky is contemplating ending it all when there’s a knock at her door. Becky’s best friend Hunter (Virginia Gardner: All the Bright Places) arrives in the nick of time to propose an adventure. She thinks the one thing that will help Becky’s recurring trauma is to climb an abandoned 2,000-foot radio tower. Becky is hesitant at first, but a nightmare convinces her to trust in Hunter’s plan.
This is a mistake.
Though Becky is a crying, shaking mess, they make it to the top of the tower. But when they try to descend, the bolts in the rusty ladder give out and the girls nearly plummet with the ladder down to Earth. Trapped without water, and with no service on their dying cell phones, Hunter and Becky must get creative if they want to survive.
A harrowing 90-minute film dragged out 17 minutes too long, Fall has a lot of potential, some excellent execution, but ultimately a rather weak story. Director Scott Mann (Final Score) seems to be at his best when the girls are at their worst—namely fighting for their lives at 2,000 feet. But the buildup to the peril drags and neither character is interesting enough to listen to when the threat of imminent death isn’t nigh.
Mann seems to understand his story is a little weak, because he throws twist after twist at this duo. First, there’s the twist that anyone who’s ever seen a drama featuring two women and a dead spouse will see coming from 2,000 feet away. Then, there’s another twist that seems to be plucked directly from the producers’ last film, 47 Meters Down. Neither twist improves the story and both seem like a desperate attempt to distract from flimsy storytelling and dialogue.
The biggest distraction, however, is the locale. Cinematographer MacGregor (Vivarium) does a brilliant job of capturing the tower’s dizzying heights. If you’re not a fan of high places, this movie will make your gut drop as MacGregor swoops the camera above the duo to show you just how harrowing their position is. The film manages to make every rusty creak and flimsy weld into a terrifying threat. The image of the girls trying to navigate a platform that’s about 4 feet in diameter evoked more genuine feeling than any of the poorly written melodrama.
Currey and Gardner do what they can with the script. While Gardner uses raw charisma to make her character fun to watch, she still seems odd. She’s dealt with the death of her friend by becoming a popular YouTuber who performs incredibly dangerous stunts. Her solution to helping a traumatized friend seems to be to retraumatize her by forcing her back into climbing, taunting her, and filming it for views. It’s not a sympathetic stance, but the film seems to be solidly on her side that this is the proper course of action.
Currey suffers a bit since she’s given very little to do despite being in every scene in the film. Becky’s character seems to be sad with occasional bouts of pouting anger. Because the film doesn’t give us any concrete ideas about the type of person Becky was before the accident, it’s hard to see her as anything other than a drag. The best they can do is showing us she once shimmied on a pole to Warrant’s Cherry Pie at a bar. One wonders why Hunter didn’t take her back to that bar for a drink and a pole dance, instead of making her climb an unstable radio tower.
When Fall is teetering above the desert as winds and vultures batter Hunter and Becky, the movie is a tense and fascinating study in survival. When the girls start hashing out their personal drama, the film nosedives into schlock.
If you’re interested in this film, I’d recommend waiting until it arrives on video on demand or streaming. The movie itself isn’t quite worth a box office premium, but MacGregor’s cinematography keeps the film interesting, even when the script fails it.
Fall is in theaters.
Fair * PG-13 * 107 mins