There are sure to be countless Covid films tackling the biggest global disruption of our lifetimes, and The Falls takes an interesting approach, relegating this cataclysm to a sub-plot. We begin in Taipei, soon after the pandemic began, with the virus looming in the shadows. It doesn’t directly harm any of the characters, but instead has a secondary menace we’re all familiar with by now, strangling personal relationships through lack of contact and slashing salaries. Here, director Chung Mong-hong is great at capturing the mundane anxiety of self-isolation.

Covid’s real purpose in this film is as a trigger. Just like it has done to so many in real-life, Covid exposes mental health problems for Pin-Wen (Alyssa Chia), a single mother raising her surly teenage daughter Xiao Jing (Gingle Wang). It’s a strong idea, but Chung’s script and direction fumble a few key moments in the first half hour. We begin embedded in Pin-Wen’s viewpoint, so much so that it seems to be her daughter who is heading towards a breakdown. An expressively filmed storm sequence flips the switch, but it’s a hobbled start that The Falls struggles to recover from.

At this point Wang becomes more of a lead, giving a strong, mature performance as a teenager with adult responsibilities thrust upon her. She and Chia don’t have the greatest chemistry, but it doesn’t detract too much considering their chilly on-screen relationship.

The Falls’ actual story is over long before the credits roll, and it ends with a strange lurch in tone that threatens to undo the solid character work elsewhere.

Chung’s script is an unflinching look at the realities of living with a mental illness, and loving someone who’s suffering in that way. It relies not on histrionics and traumatic moments, but instead the simple domestic monotony of making it through day after day.



CAST: Alyssa Chia, Gingle Wang, Chen Yi-Wen, Lee Lee-Zen

DIRECTOR: Chung Mong-hong

WRITER: Chung Mong-hong

SYNOPSIS: While quarantining, the relationship between a mother and daughter takes an unexpected turn.s