There are probably more than a handful of moments when people feel trapped in their lives, whether that sensation comes from feeling stuck in your job, financial reasons, locked in a loveless relationship, or even physically trapped in a space that one cannot escape from, i.e. jail/prison. A person might feel like their lives have been put on a permanent pause. These feelings seem to be universal. The film Taking the Fall explores each character’s feeling of having their life pass them by as the aspirations they once had drifted away from them and they each drift from one another.
Taking the Fall is directed by Josh Marble and written by Steven Hellmann. This is their first collaboration with one another. With their particular niche subject, they have created a work that can apply to a broad audience. Their work attempts to speak the universal language of isolation, feeling confined, and unhappiness. They explore this with many of their characters who have been out of college for a while. The hopes and dreams they once held appear so distant as they socialize with each other and remember how far they have come and yet, how far they have not gone. The feeling of having to reintegrate into a culture is hard enough, but add into the mix the redundancy of doing the same thing for six years and a shock follows. This is an exploration of self-discovery for more than just the main character.
Tyler (Munro Chambers), the main protagonist of the film, has recently been released from prison after serving a six-year sentence for the possession and distribution of marijuana. When Tyler was arrested, he was a 22-year-old college student with a bright future. Now that he is out, he meets up with his college friends and realizes that all their dreams and everything that they had aspired to be while in college is a distant dream. Most of them haven’t accomplished what they wanted, and most of them are living a life where they feel trapped and unhappy.
While Chambers plays the role well, he ultimately expects a certain level of understanding from those who have not experienced a life in prison. It is understandable that many of the characters are awkward and are unsure how to tread around him. Kate (Katie Gill) is an aspiring photographer at a desk job. She feels trapped in her career and relationship. Kate, whose acting, at times, seems a little forced, does moves the plot along. Her first introduction is with Tyler in the kitchen when he has come downstairs in nothing but a towel. Her facial expression seems overly excited when she first sees him, but her acting quickly recovers from the first few scenes.
Justin (Roland Buck III), the protagonist’s best friend, a 28-year-old playboy type, is an entrepreneur who has his own clothing line. Buck really stands out in this role. He is the friend who stayed in constant contact with Tyler after his imprisonment. Justin has offered to shelter and feed him and has just been all-around a good person. Through their interactions, Justin has really remained a touchstone of purity in this film. Getting together with his friends has revealed to every how far they have left to go to be happy people. They have relationships, families, spouses, jobs, but they are all unhappy for one reason or another.
Buck’s character seems to be the only truly dynamic character in the batch. His friends offer insightful sayings and phrases that allow them to be seen as more, but that stops after a while. When Justin offers a bit of advice, it does stand out: “All the people who have called me out on my failures are too afraid to go after their own dreams.” Offering these tidbits of advice, it really shows Buck’s range. He manages to push his friend Tyler into wanting to do something more in his life, a feat that isn’t easy for anyone to accomplish. While others might feel trapped by social obligations, Justin allows audiences to see possibilities outside of failure.
While the plot seems a little trite in its attempt to seem more artsy than what is usually expected from a coming-of-age film, there are aspects of it that truly do work. One of the elements that really drives the story home is the relationship between Tyler and Justin. The concept of settling down is briefly touched on with regards to Justin. He isn’t ready, and Tyler is discovering the girl he thought of for so long isn’t available any longer. Justin, unwilling to settle down, feels he has plenty of time for a relationship later. Now is the time to focus on his career. It’s a millennial mindset, but one that has afforded him great gains.
Another aspect that feels flat in this film is the lack of secondary character development. There are attempts to make the characters seem more dynamic, and it shows that the writer and the director really tried. However, this does not translate well. The secondary characters seem to just be mopey and lack any kind of depth. This ultimately leads to the story feeling like it needed a rewrite or two.
Taking the Fall is not a groundbreaking film. It does not shatter or reinvent the coming-of-age story, but what it lacks in character development and depth it more than makes up for it with Roland Buck III’s character. Justin is a kindhearted friend who has had his fair share of letdowns, but his unwavering devotion to his friends is something that is hard to find. Seeing Buck flex his acting muscles is the real reason to catch this film. The film’s director and writer have potential. Their work speaks to the human conditions that we all at some point feel, but its attempt to appeal to so many actually proves to be its own downfall.
Taking the Fall is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.
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Donnie Lopez is a gay Latino/Hispanic social and political commentator, writer, entertainment journalist, and professor. He writes on topics that affect Hispanic/Latino culture. With his novel insight, veracity, and sense of humor, he entertains as well as educates the world.