Movie review by
Stefan Pape, Common Sense Media
Falling Movie Poster Image
Well-acted drama has strong prejudice and hateful language.
  • R
  • 2021
  • 112 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Stands out for positive messages.

Positive Messages

Forgiveness is a key theme. The ability to put political issues to one side and move on, in the name of love and family. Showing compassion to people, even those you don't necessarily agree with. Homophobic, racist, sexist, and misogynistic views and slurs are challenged and shown to be wrong.

Positive Role Models

John is a part of a progressive family set-up, with a loving husband and an adopted daughter. While John's father, Willis, represents a negative view of a bygone era, his family members, including children and grandchildren, look down on him for his views. They ensure a more hopeful and less bleak outlook on life and do not tolerate the elderly man's hateful prejudice.


A parent teaches their very young child to shoot a duck. When the child kills the duck, they adopt the corpse as a pet, and even sleep with it in their bed. The next day they help prepare it for lunch. A spouse spits at their partner in front of their children. Later they are seen pushing their now teenage child off a horse, resulting in a bloodied nose. They are also shown smacking their adult child.


There are various, graphic sexual references, including discussions about oral sex. There is one sequence containing nudity, as we see a topless character from the point of view of another, as they have sex.


Non-stop discriminatory language. Racist language includes calling Barack Obama a "negro" and referring to a Chinese character as being Japanese. Homophobic hate language, including "fag," "dyke," "queen," as well as "pansy." The are also many misogynistic remarks, such as "dirty whore," "slut," and "bitch." Several uses of "f--k," "c--ksucker," "a--hole," "p---y," "d--k," "bitch," and "s--t." A kid uses bad language after picking it up form their parent. Many explicit sexual references too.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There are several moments where of alcohol and cigarettes being consumed. Character smokes cigarettes in flashbacks, and in the present day as an elderly person, implying they've been smoking their whole life. Character tries to smoke in an airplane toilet. Characters drink alcohol, and do so in front of kids at a birthday party. Character drinks whiskey on their own, during the day as well as the evening.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Falling is a drama about a man who has a nasty, outdated view of the world, and in turn, the movie has an incessant stream of hateful language targeting minorities. Willis (Lance Henriksen), an elderly man who is showing signs of dementia, is taken in by his gay son, John (Viggo Mortensen). Willis makes racial slurs against Black people and Asians; homophobic remarks about gay people; and misogynistic and sexist remarks about women. He is vilified for his comments, and is never perceived to be in the right. While his dementia affects his behavior, flashback scenes show Willis always had a hateful side. There is violence in the movie -- a father pushes his son off a horse, resulting in a bloodied nose. A character also spits at another. There are several graphic sexual references, with one scene containing nudity as we see a topless woman through the eyes of the man, as the two have sex. In addition to the hateful language, there is profanity throughout, including "c--ksucker," "f--k" and "s--t," and we even hear a child swear. Willis smokes and drinks alcohol freely throughout, and in one scene he becomes inebriated at a kid's birthday party. Despite Willis' appalling behavior, the notion of forgiveness is rife, and focuses on letting bygones be bygones and moving on in the name of family.

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What's the story?

FALLING tells the story of Willis (Lance Henriksen), a conservative, elderly man who is exhibiting symptoms of dementia, and so is taken in by his gay son, John (Viggo Mortensen), in Los Angeles. The pair clash constantly, as Willis' outdated outlook on life becomes increasingly more challenging for their already damaged relationship.

Is it any good?

A noteworthy directorial debut from Mortensen, the film takes an interesting exploration into the disparity of political thinking in America through a symbolic father-son conflict. Falling is also a tale of forgiveness, and takes a fascinating look into what we as people are able to make peace with, for the sake of our family. Mortensen is terrific in the supporting lead role, taking a very understated approach, as rather than be a film full of impassioned conflict, his character very much absorbs the disdain from his father, like a boxer soaking up punches. This creates a platform for Henriksen to shine and he delivers emphatically.

The story is well structured, cutting between flashbacks (featuring Sverrir Gudnason as a young Willis) and the present day. Unfortunately the narrative does get tired as it progresses. It begins to feel repetitive, even tedious at times, as we go round in circles, just watching on as this elderly man is incessantly horrible to his family. The result is, that despite two fantastic performances, Falling is a family drama that proves to be a hard watch.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about some of the hateful language used in Falling. How did some of what Willis said make you feel? Did you think his illness excused his behavior? How did his family deal with his prejudice and horrible comments?

  • How did the movie portray sex? Was it affectionate? Respectful? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • How are drinking and smoking depicted? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • The movie focuses on the difference in politics among a family. How do you deal with people who have different views to you? Discuss what role communication plays in such situations.

  • Willis seems to be suffering from dementia. What is dementia? Have you ever dealt with dementia in real life? How does the movie compare?

Movie details

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