Monday, May 3, 2021

The Falls: Testament of Love (2013)

Director: Jon Garcia                                     Writers: Jon Garcia
Film Score: Jon Garcia                                 Cinematography: Christopher Stephens
Starring: Nick Ferrucci, Benjamin Farmer, Thomas Stroppel, and Hannah Barefoot

This sequel to The Falls is another beautiful story by Jon Garcia. Unlike the first film, The Falls: Testament of Love is more of a gay film. The first was really for anyone and everyone, a love story about two people who discover themselves outside of the constraints of their families. It was so well written and filmed it really transcended the idea of gay or straight. The sequel is the continuing story of those two characters who shared a momentous time in their lives and chose very different ways to deal with that experience. And that experience, in this film, is being gay and how that affects the people around them. Also, while the first film was really Nick Ferrucci’s story, the second film focuses on Benjamin Farmer and his challenges. The first film was done on a shoestring, with a total crew of four people, and actors helping out on the technical side when they weren’t on screen. But with the recognition and success of that film, Garcia was able to get more financing and hire enough crew members to handle all of the technical work and allow the actors to simply focus on their craft. The results are stunning.

The film begins with Nick Ferrucci telling the audience very briefly about his experience on his Mormon Mission. There he met Benjamin Farmer and the two fell in love. Ferrucci left the church before he could be formally excommunicated. He moved to Seattle to write for a magazine and has a boyfriend, Thomas Stroppel. In his narrative he tells how he lost touch with Farmer and never heard from him again after a trip they took around the country together. The reason why soon becomes clear. Farmer took a different route after his experience with Ferrucci, confessing to church officials and vowing that he would never give in to such temptations again. He met Hannah Barefoot later and married her, and the two have a daughter who is now three years old by the time of the current narrative. One of the important people in their discovery of themselves from the first film was Brian Allard, an Iraq War veteran who was incredibly accepting of them and became their only real friend during that time. But each of the men receive a call from Allard’s mother telling them that he has died, and this becomes the second time in their lives when they are thrown together. Their meeting after the funeral is, as one would expect, awkward, with Ferrucci desperate for closure and Farmer bent on denial. But what eventually happens between them is as uplifting as one could hope for.

Once again the two leads, Nick Ferrucci and Benjamin Farmer are exceptional. In fact, they are so natural and so believable it actually makes the viewer aware that the other actors are just acting. But the supporting cast plays an important role in this film. In the opening sequences Ferrucci is joined by Thomas Stroppel, desperately in love with a man who doesn’t have the same feelings to give back. It’s truly heart rending to see the emotion that both actors are able to access. Benjamin Farmer’s partner onscreen is Hannah Barefoot as the trusting Mormon wife who begins to suspect something when she senses that things aren’t right between them. In fact, unlike the naked emotion of the other pair, Farmer and Barefoot have the more formidable job of keeping their emotions subtextual for the first half of the film. The other great pair, though they don’t work together, are the fathers. Harold Phillips plays Ferrucci’s father and is still disappointed with him after the revelation of the first film. But in one of the most moving scenes in the sequel, Bruce Jennings as Farmer’s father calls to blame the whole thing on Ferrucci after Farmer’s revelation, but Phillips instantly rises to the defense of his son. It’s inspiring how, when faced with the same disapproval from outside, he is finally able to articulate his true feelings about his son.

In addition to the fine acting, the work of Jon Garcia as a director really shines. His use of symbolic imagery in the picture rivals that of the great directors from the golden age of cinema. In the first film Farmer was so consumed by the Mormon religion that he had absolutely no other interests. When he confesses to Ferrucci in this film that he hates his job and Ferrucci suggests he do something else, he has no idea what that would even be. This is symbolized when they meet later in Ferrucci’s hotel room. Sitting near the window, the large red “M” from the motel sign outside in front of his face symbolizes how Farmer’s obsession with his religion has blocked out everything from his life, including who he really is. Ferrucci, on the other hand, has his face reflected in the window showing that he has embraced who he really is and is living his own life. Another wonderful use of a subtle symbol is after Farmer has confessed himself and stands before the window in his house looking out at the rain, symbolizing the cleansing effect that his confession has had for him. The Falls: Testament of Love is a masterful film that perfectly complements and extends the already brilliant work of the first film. It gets my highest recommendation.

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