on December 12, 2013
The Falls is an affecting, touching film despite its flaws. The script at times is creaky. Some of the acting, especially the part of R.J.'s father, is unconvincing. Certain scenes, even important ones, don't work because they are under realized, not carefully enough thought through. Yet enough does work in it that it succeeds in being a better movie than many low budget gay films have been. It has an emotional conviction running through it, a seriousness, that sustains it. And some moments in it, even what might seem to be relatively unimportant ones, like that of the two guys riding the bus, looking at each other, being affectionate, glow with feeling.
The sequel, The Falls: Testament of Love, is a better movie. Though it is also marred, it is more emotionally complex, the script is tighter and more purposeful, and, perhaps in part because of the larger cast, it is better acted. R.J. Smith, in a sense the movie's "frame," or at least the character who begins and ends the film and upon occasion serves as its narrator, is still stolidly, monochromatically acted. Most of the time, he appears stonily glum. His boyfriend Paul is so much more animated and emotionally alive and responsive, that one might wonder what he sees in R.J. who responds to him often so coldly.
R.J. is the film's biggest problem. His love for Chris appears almost obsessional, troubled and troubling. His trip to Salt Lake City, what he does there, are disturbing, just a few steps away from his turning into a stalker. It is unclear, at least to me, whether the film itself sees how excessively, and obsessionally, he is behaving, though by the end, in Chris's statement that "he forgives him," one gains a clarity that might have been shown earlier if R.J. had been acted with more subtlety. I am not judging R.J. He does what he does. I am just wondering if his character, the troubling side of it, is sufficiently portrayed, if he couldn't have been made less stiff and more emotionally conflicted, more self aware. He doesn't seem to know how bizarrely he is behaving, as when, just to offer one instance, he insinuates himself into staying overnight at Chris's and his wife's home.
One can say, of course, that he does what he does out of his love for Chris, to free him from his internal crisis by forcing him to admit that he is gay both to himself and to others. Yet his way of doing so at times borders on craziness, the lover in pursuit of his beloved no matter what, the selfish lover in short. Does the film see this? Or is it just me? I don't know.
The complexity I miss in R.J. is, however, much more fully present in Chris. Benjamin Farmer's performance of the character in the sequel is far more interesting than it was in the earlier film. His inner struggle, his suffering, his anger, the ways in which his closetedness endangers his life and lives of others, all these and other emotions are visible at times merely in his eyes. It is sensitive work that carries the film over its rougher moments.
Much of the supporting cast is also good, Chris's wife in particular, and some of the minor characters, like Aaron, another closeted and married former missionary, have scenes that are more convincing and resonant than any moments in the earlier movie. A few of the actors are still weak. R.J.'s father remains insufficiently depicted, for instance. But, since this is largely Chris's movie, it succeeds much more consistently than The Falls.
Of course, this is still a low budget movie, and moments in it betray that fact. The anniversary party looks to have been attended by about ten people, even though it means to fill a large hall. It is clear that much of it was filmed in the same location. There are gaps in the plot's logic that I can't elaborate upon here without giving away too much. The ending feels to me too tacked on, its openness less a gesture toward a more generous future than uncertain about who these two main characters, said to love each other, might be and become. Such uncertainty, one might say, is true to life. Fine. But the ending nonetheless strikes me as abrupt.
Still, like its predecessor, the movie carries with it real conviction. The best of Testament of Love is far better than the earlier film, better acted, much better written, and better shot. It is a stronger movie, serious in ways that far too many low budget gay movies don't aspire to be. Though it is flawed as well, it is even more moving, and what it is concerned with goes much deeper. The movie's religious themes, if often still superficial, nonetheless give it a resonance it would lack without them. But the heart of it doesn't lie in them. That is fortunate, I think. This is not Bresson we are watching, after all. It lies in the relationship between the two men.
At least one person in that relationship must dig deep inside himself to endure, to save himself and to love others, in particular to love a man openly and freely. One might wish at the end, perhaps, that the man he has loved and apparently loves still, R.J., had reached as deeply inside himself as Chris must do, to find himself as clearly (however differently) as Chris has begun to. It's an uneven film, then, yet, despite its small and not so small failures, moving and worth seeing.
on January 21, 2014
I didn't know that the sequel had been made until I accidentally discovered it here on Amazon. Needless to say, I ordered it immediately and I was not disappointed. As in the first movie, this one is excellently acted by supreme artists and it is powerfully written and directed by Jon Garcia, who just got it better the second time around. Sequels rarely live up to the original but this is the exception here. It was absolutely superb and surpassed my expectations. There were many tears shed watching this film because it speaks to so many people, not just gay people, but to everyone on so many different levels. One can identify with all of the major characters to some degree or another. The acting is truly superb which is so rare for a low budget gay film. The sound is a lot better this time around than the first. The cinematography is beautiful. The whole film is riveting because one is rooting for everyone....all the characters make one feel love, betrayal, pain, denial, sorrow, hope. Kudos to Mr. Garcia, Mr. Ferrucci, and Mr. Farmer for not disappointing this viewer who fell in love with the first movie and is even more in love with the second movie. If there is a third, I will be indeed be buying it...and sharing it. Thank you, thank you!
on July 23, 2014
It was interesting to see a continuation of the The Falls with The Falls: Testament of Love. The sex scenes are not overdone and fit in well emotionally and sequentially. RJ and Chris really look like they are meant to be together, and you have to really feel sorry for Paul and Emily. The dynamics between religion and sexuality and how it all played out was not surprising for me, but they do reach out to people who feel like they have lived similar struggles or whom like to watch these struggles and how they unfold in video format. This movie, like the first one, is slow in pace appropriately. It might be too slow for some, but it was just right for me.
The ending was contrived in the sense that it allowed for possible continuation for additional sequel(s), but the story got to the point where it really should have been a happy ending. However, even though a happy ending would have been more cohesive for this storyline, it could have been too controversial for religious groups. Counter-intuitive to that though, how many people in conservative religious groups are watching or even aware of this movie though? It's not like it's on primetime TV or was in mainstream theaters in the US.
Side note: I have the DVD of The Falls Part 1:, which says "Another Testament of Love" on it, which is confusing because it's the first one in the series, so how is it "another"?
on March 2, 2014
I really liked The Falls, the first of these two films. Like the first, Testament of Love moves at a somewhat slower pace than some movies in this genre. It moves thoughtfully, carefully, and the conflicts finally boil over. Many times I wasn't certain how this movie was going to end. There was no foregone conclusion throughout it until we come to the very end. It's a moving, impressive movie. I really cared for the struggles that these two men go through. They hurt, they deal with heavy questions and they resolve their issues. I was impressed with the beauty of this movie. The acting is so good as the characters come to terms with their own sexuality, their own personal situations, jobs, lives, families. Watch this film. If you liked or loved The Falls, you'll find this film slower, but very rewarding.