dir. Adam Stilwell
Compellingly crafted and with enough twists in the telling, Adam Stilwell’s sophomore outing is unlikely to be the film you expect. In a similar way to recent festival gem The Kindred, the narrative begins with a moment of violence that leads our protagonist to fall into a coma. When Sara (Andrea Londo) awakes she finds herself ostracized from her sister and kept under lock and key by a husband she can’t be sure she can trust. Naturally there’s more to this setup, with its exploration of gaslighting and relationship dynamics continuing to escalate.
As Sara, Londo is fabulous – bringing real emotional weight to her character’s journey (and managing to combat some of the more ridiculous moments), whilst Shawn Ashmore (a familiar face for fans of the X-Men franchise) grows into a role that initially feels a bit miscast. Ashmore is at his best when he can have fun with the part, something which emerges in the film’s cracking last act; the same going for much of the ensemble, including an enjoyable turn Jane Badler.
If The Free Fall falls down anywhere it’s in the length of time it takes to reach the twist and shift the narrative into something more interesting. For all the Hitchcockian touches of Kent Harper’s script one wishes they’d taken a lesson from Vertigo and revealed what’s actually going on with ample time to see it play out. Nevertheless director Stilwell’s work is compelling enough to mark him as a talent of note, and – thanks to a very strong lead and enough tweaks to various genres – the film manages to get beyond elements that don’t quite work.