Top positive review
75 people found this helpful
A Moving Personal Journey
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."