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on December 18, 2012
"The Falls" had the potential to be exploitative and inflammatory, considering its dual subjects: Mormons and homosexuality. Thankfully, it is neither. Credit is due to writer and director Jon Garcia, who deftly navigates a minefield of controversy to create a moving story of one young missionary's personal journey. It is a journey that is admittedly hard to capture in two hours, so this telling is, of a necessity, elliptical.

Mormons will view this film in a completely different light than non-Mormons, despite the director's care in trying not to offend potential audiences. A touching film about two missionaries is not the same thing as a film about two missionaries touching.

Garcia firmly believes that he has made the former: the story of a personal journey and finding love. A film that is respectful of the religion that makes that love fraught with difficulty. And indeed he has.

What I don't think he understands is that most devout Mormons will see the latter: a profane, sacrilegious exploitation of one of the proudest products of the Church--its missionaries. Garcia, who took great pains to learn about the Church, even so far as taking the missionary lessons and attending services for months (with no pretense), can't fully appreciate one peculiarity about Mormons.

Ever since 1838, when Governor Lilburn W. Boggs of Missouri issued the infamous "Extermination Order" to shoot any Mormon within the state on sight, Latter-Day Saints have lived with a siege mentality: it's us against the world. (This was most recently evident in the campaign of Mitt Romney.) Mormons are suspicious of any outsider who tries to portray their faith. They seek to influence, control, and even orchestrate such portrayals in most cases to assure that they and their faith are not disparaged.

Missionaries are to devout Mormons what servicemen are to patriotic Americans: they are heroes beyond reproach, at least while they are serving. The Mormon discomfort with Garcia's film will stem not so much from the subject of homosexuality, which most Mormons are now aware exists among even their devoutest members, but the fact that a less-than-sacred portrait of the Church's missionaries has been painted for all the world to see.

The Mormons' problem with this film and Garcia's triumph are one and the same: the brutal honesty of the story. Missionaries are not all angels. And they are not all the self-assured messengers of the Gospel that they attempt to be, sometimes with great personal struggle. But Garcia exposes the weaknesses of his characters lovingly. He does not belittle them or shame them or parade them as evidence of Mormonism's failure.

Having served as a Mormon missionary myself, and knowing at the time that I was gay, I see both sides of this dilemma. (I, too, have written about such experiences in one of my novels.) I understand the Mormon discomfort and the belief that, while some missionaries struggle with their sexual feelings, to indulge them WHILE serving a mission is a disgrace, never mind what happens afterward. But I also understand Garcia's message that it takes a brave and self-assured person, missionary or no, to stand up to such a formidable force as one's faith and family combined, and say "I am not ashamed of who I am."
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on June 16, 2014
I saw this film last evening for the first time. I was a missionary who served honorably for two years back in the 70s and found the many scenes truthful and inspiring. I, too, am a Gay man who finally found a way out of the church to be myself. It was not easy. I was told to marry and have children to have a "cure" for my "homo" disease. I did what that priesthood leaders told me, but I finally could not be false to myself any longer. I am now in a beautiful gay relationship going on 26 years. We are getting married in San Francisco for our celebrated relationship. I urge any who see this film to understand that it is NOT easy, but it is well worth it. Mormons! Mormons!, where ever you are: If you are gay, please come out of the closet and set yourself free and be yourself. I highly recommend it! I am no longer bitter about the church, but I see it as part of my "truth." These people are my people and they always will be. I am proud to be a gay ex-Mormon who is the 5th generation of Mormons who fought and struggled to be who they are since Joseph Smith's vision in a grove of trees in upstate NY in 1820. I can't change facts, only embrace them.

Good luck to all.

John E Whiting
New York, NY
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on December 18, 2012
I enjoyed this movie. It is such a typical story of growing up gay in the church. These young men finally figure out you can't undo what God created in you. It is a sweet story with no overtly sexual content.
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on January 9, 2016
This is yet another G/L film with an ending that provides absolutely no catharctic effect based on its central theme: the love between two Mormon Missionaries... Yet another obsession of G/L scriptwriters to end a gay-themed drama with a sad ending... On top of that, this film heavily relies on dialogue and narration instead of action to tell its story - a mistake many writers make when using film as their medium of expression. Fortunately, the two protagonists are quite good actors who manage to breath some heart and soul into the "talking-heads" conversations that inundate the movie. The only reason I would suggest one watches this film is to acquire a base for its sequel which is better...
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on November 25, 2012
Ricky ("RJ") Smith is a 20 year old who is interrupting his college studies to fulfill his Mormon missionary obligation. He is paired with Chris Merrill, also 20, who has already been at that work for a while, and the duo is expected to spend every moment of the day and night together. As is the custom, RJ must follow Chris' lead, as he is the more experienced of the two, and RJ respects that, which makes it more difficult for him to understand when Chris loses control when they are verbally attacked by a potential convert who challenges the Church's stand on polygamy. RJ also must take charge when they encounter a couple of homophobic rednecks who hate Mormons.

It is not until later in the movie that it is established that both RJ and Chris had been repressing feelings that they could be gay, and the closeness between the two eventually develops into a loving, physical relationship ... one that, if it is discovered, could force then from the church and possibly alienate them from their families.

This film has been compared to "Latter Days," another film about a gay Mormon missionary, but is actually quite different, on several levels. It seems more realistic to me, in depicting the mindset of the two young men as they face a life-changing decision. The cast of mostly unknown actors performs well, and - except for some issues with dialogue being drowned out by background music and noise - the production values are good.

My advance screener copy did not have the additional "Making of..." featurette (which is the norm for screeners), but surprisingly also had no credits, either opening or closing. I assume all are included in the DVD release on December 11th. Four stars out of five.
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on November 18, 2013
Straightforward staging, honest characters and credible interactions and dialogue make this a thoroughly enjoyable film. The story of two, 20-year old Mormon men doing their missionary service in Oregon who find themselves attracted to each other with no way to reconcile their feelings without violating their church's teachings. The soul-searching is wholly believable and the outcomes equally so.

The two lead actors are pretty close to perfect in their roles--making the viewer understand their dilemma and hoping for the best possible outcome. Secondary characters are often equally strong--particularly an Iraq army vet who serves as a kind of anti-missionary for them and helps them take a step toward a different world.

Highly enjoyable, without being preachy or overly critical of religion.
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on September 12, 2015
**There may be spoilers**
I actually saw this on Netflix, since it's free there, but I felt compelled to leave feedback here, because the feedback system is robust here.
In four words: I loved this movie. As another reviewer stated, I didn't think that I would. There are countless movies that show the collision of faith with sexuality, usually with sexuality winning out. Why would this one be any different? Before I go further, let's have a little background here.
We encounter two missionaries: RJ and Chris. RJ is the neophyte; he’s going on his first mission. Chris is experienced, as he’s been serving on his mission already. Both come from solid Mormon families, though Chris’s family is more high-profile than RJ’s.
After they meet and get to know each other, they each start to show vulnerability. This means that RJ shows that, despite having been a high-school wrestler, he’s a sensitive guy. This also means that what is an initially stoic Chris is actually someone who loves his religiosity but who turns out to be frustrated that others don’t embrace the Christian god the way that they “should.” It’s in this sharing of each other’s vulnerabilities that they build a strong connection.
This connection is at once beautiful, resembling the fulsome love that is supposed to emanate from their god. It’s a forgiving love, a love that allows people to look past each other’s faults and focus on the one thing that makes them attractive.
But this is also a dangerous love, since if it is discovered by the church, it can mean the figurative end of both of their lives. I am a former Mormon, and I can attest that the oppressive level of peer pressure you see in here really does exist. There are expectations to serve on a mission, come home and get married, and have three or more kids. When you don’t want to follow that formula, the excoriation and shunning begin. But that’s what makes this connection so beautiful. It forges on despite the significant threats to the lives of the lovers.
I won’t go into details other than to say that there isn’t a solid ending to this movie. Keep watching, and you’ll see what I am talking about.
With the exception of RJ’s mother, it’s credible, with the standout being Chris, who clearly has training and experience. There are times when RJ’s acting does require you to strain a little to connect with him, but I think this is more because he seems like a stiff person in real life rather than someone not knowing how to play the role effectively.
When you do research, you find out that both actors are straight. That’s important to know, because the scenes of strong intimacy in here feel real. You really believe that you’re observing two star-crossed lovers who are interested in pleasing the other. They kiss passionately. They look longingly into each other’s eyes. They caress each other lovingly. It was as if this type of romance was natural forthem.
Although he didn’t have a major role in the movie, the mission leader—I think he’s named Marshall—does a smashing good job. When you initially see him, he’s escorting RJ to the apartment where he’ll be staying with Chris. The moment you lay eyes on the guy, you can see that he’s ultra-religious, naïve, and an outright snitch. He’s also an uber-geek. Unless you’re talking about the travails of Joseph Smith, it’s clear you can’t trust him with any secret. He’ll rat you out in four seconds.
What you walk away from this movie with is a connection with the protagonists. You also walk away with sorrow in your heart based on how things turned out. Situations get bleak pretty quickly, and the actors subjugate themselves to the bleakness in order to turn in a credible performance. You walk away wondering how things ultimately turned out. You walk away as confused as RJ and Chris are about where they stand in their faith. You walk away with more questions than you have answers.
This movie had every opportunity to turn into a clichéd gay-religious movie, relying on tired tropes to get its message across. While there are similarities to other gay movies of the same genre, this one uses the good acting skills of everyone to deliver the film from the trash bin to one that’s put on repeat in your watch list.
This is a definite recommend. Just make sure when you sit down to watch, you have time to devote and won’t be distracted. There are subtleties in this one that, if missed, can make the rest of the movie confusing.
Note: There is an iteration to this film; it’s called “The Falls: Testament of Love”. If you want to find out RJ and Chris’s disposition at the end of the first movie, check this one out. The acting is even better, and the plot is just as engaging.
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on February 28, 2015
Both The Falls and the sequel are well done stories about two Mormon missionaries who are challenged by their nature to be themselves and express the love they have for one another -- or stand with the doctrines of their church, and deny who they are.

The first film does a good job of building up to where the two finally act on the feelings they have for one another. The production quality is good, and the acting makes you believe that these two are meant to be together.

All in all, a good romantic film for those who enjoy m/m romance stories. However, don't look for a Happy Ever After in this film, because it's not here. It doesn't end badly, just not as some of us had hoped.
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on February 20, 2013
The Falls is ultimately a sweet and well-intentioned story about young gay mormon missionaries grappling with the conflict between their sexuality and their dopey religion. But be warned, you need to get through the first 40 minutes, which is little more than a documentary about the day-to-day lives of the missionaries. Some may find that mildly interesting, but it'll test the patience of anyone expecting a properly structured story.
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on March 8, 2013
I must say that this beautiful little movie has replaced "Shelter" as my favorite in this film genre. It kicks "Latter Days" in the pants and makes that film look amateurish (the book far outshines the movie). If you are like me you always have reservations about these gay flics because the majority of them are akin to those Indoneasian puppet shadow-shows with prancing cardboard cutout characters and plotlines bordering on cow patties, but, I am here to tell you this one will sneak up on you and tickle your funny bone! There was one scene in their adventures with prospective church members where I was rolling with laughter (no spoilers here). These guys are so loveable, so perfectly human in their conflicted emotions, that you just want to keep them both. Buy the movie and watch it over and over again. You will not be sorry with this one. Highly recommended!
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