This gorgeous film, set in the late 60s, is based on a Barbara Gowdy novel, and follows the misfortunes of the Field family. Something broke them long ago, and when we first encounter them, they are the very picture of dysfunction. The three teenage daughters--Lou, Sandy and Norma--are beginning to chafe against the rhythms of their lives, and against their petty tyrant of a father, Jim Field (Callum Keith Rennie). Their mother (Miranda Richardson), who is like a doll that the girls care for, does nothing but sleep and stare vacantly at the television.
The IMDB page: Falling Angels (2003)
The film was directed by Scott Smith and adapted for the screen by Esta Spalding. Fans of Slings & Arrows, Kids in the Hall (and really, dozens of other Canadian productions) will recognize Mark McKinney, here playing genuinely sleazy twin brothers. Katharine Isabelle, as Lou, manages to steal a couple of key scenes from Callum. She is probably best known for her role in the surprisingly good, and genuinely scary Ginger Snaps movies (the third of which includes a shouldn't-be-hot, raving preacher-man played by Hugh Dillon).
Cast / Characters:
Callum Keith Rennie
Reg and Ron
Runtime: 104 min (DVD)
Country: Canada / France
IMDB rating: 6.8/10 (441 votes)
Keywords: 1960s, Coming Of Age, Adultery, First Sexual Experience, Bomb Shelter, Suburbia, Implied Incest
Directors Guild of Canada (2004)
Nominated - Outstanding Achievement in Direction - Feature Film, Scott Smith
Nominated - Outstanding Achievement in Production Design - Feature Film, Rob Gray
Genie Awards (2004)
Won - Best Achievement in Art Direction/Production Design, Rob Gray and Christina Kuhnigk
Won - Best Achievement in Music - Original Song, Ken Whiteley For the song "Tell Me".
Nominated - Best Achievement in Cinematography, Gregory Middleton
Nominated - Best Achievement in Overall Sound, Warren St. Onge, Steph Carrier and Lou Solakofski
Nominated - Best Achievement in Sound Editing, David McCallum, Steven Hammond, Ronayne Higginson, David Rose and Jane Tattersall
Nominated - Best Screenplay, Adapted, Esta Spalding
Leo Awards (2004)
Nominated - Feature Length Drama: Best Lead Performance by a Male, Callum Keith Rennie
Nanaimo inFEST Film Festival (2003)
Won - Silvie Award, Scott Smith
Canada's Top Ten (2003)
7 user comments, mainly positive.
This has to be the most well done Canadian film I've ever seen. The acting was marvelous; the directing was beautiful and the story was very original and realistically hilarious. Everything in this film seemed like it was done so subtly, which it gave such a realistic portrayel of the late 60s/early 70s.
There was something wonderful about this film. It just seemed so authentic.
I don't know what else to say about it; I guess you just got to see it for yourself. It was just such a warm story ---> even with all the depressing aspects it had.
You can find all the comments here.
Callum Quotient: 70%
CityTV Interview with Callum
Star TV on the Set of Falling Angels
- Jim: I used my kidney stone as an engagement ring, and I swept her right off her feet.
- Lou: That's not a word.
Jim: "Kidny." It's an organ, also a bean.
Lou: It's also spelled with an "e."
Jim: That's American spelling
- Jim: Pitter patter, let's get at 'er!
- Mary: You can't trick nature. You can't dance to the music and then kill the piper.
- Jim: Get up. Your mother's on the roof. Bring some whiskey.
- Jim: I wasn't there. I went for ice cream
- Lynne Stopkewich (director of Suspicious River and Kissed) was originally slated to direct, but suggested Smith when she had a scheduling conflict
- Katharine Isabelle appeared in the two part Da Vinci's Inquest episode, A Cinderella Story, where she played Bobby Marlowe's girlfriend's daughter. (Thank you, scriggle, for the reminder.)
- Kett Turton, who plays Lou's boyfriend, had a role as a ghost in Kingdom Hospital. (Thank you, neu111 for more C6D trivia!)
- Filmed in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
- Many of the songs, which seem absolutely true to period, were written and recorded for the film, and are not in fact the 40s show tunes that they sound like.
- On the commentary track for Hard Core Logo, Bruce McDonald tells the story of the first time Miranda Richardson met Callum. She did the "Where's Billy?" trick for him. &hearts
- The family scrabble game
- Jim and Mary dance around the living room
- Lou attempts seduction by bicycle
- Jim explains his procedures for the bomb shelter
- Christmas morning for the Field family
- Really, all the other scenes. This movie is fascinating from start to finish.
Do I want to show this to my parents / friends / co-workers?
How good is this movie?
Honestly, really excellent. No fooling. I meant it!
It's good, but I think it's excellent because I just saw 'Slap Shot 2'
Eh. It's only okay.
Only watchable because of Callum
Is it violent?
Jim is fluffy like a kitten
Maybe he has a few claws
Vacuums and Christmas trees fear Jim
Does it count if it's self-inflicted?
Is that funny "ha ha" or funny "peculiar?"
I couldn't stop laughing
It was definitely funny
There was some laughter
Occasionally, I cracked a smile
Well, Callum's a lead.
A little, most of it awkward and/or skeevy
Some LSD-inspired makeouts down in that bomb shelter
Some questionable scenes.
Reg is pretty damn skeevy.
Not for the faint of heart
What's he like?
Oh, yeah, Jim's a total prince
I mean, he brings presents sometimes
Honestly, he means well
Except when he's being a drunken tyrant, or cheating
How many people does he kill?
He probably got a few with that rifle
Oh, about 10
How crazy is he?
Prime example of mental health
He's mostly with it
He did lock his whole family in a bomb shelter for two weeks
Three words: Barbara Gowdy character
Did you see him doing the pushups?
He makes that long coat look good
He's got his moments, when he's not being scary
So, so gay
Awfully interested in interior redecorating
Well, you know, he was in the army
Can't tell. Jim's a little tough to read.
He'd shoot you for suggesting it.
Poll answers courtesy of brilliant, hilarious meresy.
Does he die?
You really want to know? Are you sure? Really sure? Well, then. (highlight to read)
::No. He does not die at this time.::
The Western wing
Falling Angels epitomizes the best of Canadian cinema
By Joel McConvey
Falling Angels, Scott Smith's wonderfully odd new film based on Barbara Gowdy's novel of the same name, opens with a shot of water sliding gorgeously over Niagara Falls. It's a potent symbol: the Falls, a wonder shared by Canada and its noisy southern neighbour, is one of the few spectacles over which we claim genuine bragging rights. Our side is bigger, more powerful and more exhilarating.
Conversely, our movies are smaller, quieter and more thoughtful. Telefilm Canada may have recently realigned its Canadian Feature Film Fund to give more backing to films with the potential for wide commercial appeal, but so far that campaign has given us the box-office bomb Foolproof and the infuriating Men With Brooms advertising blitz, and largely failed to convince anyone that the Canadian blockbuster isn't a stupid idea.
"Do we make mainstream movies? No," muses Callum Keith Rennie, one of the stars of Falling Angels, a film that exemplifies the kind of filmmaking Canadians excel at: rich, quirky, character-driven stories, in which black comedy and emotional heft co-exist in delicious symbiotic tension.
Rennie is one of Canada's best actors, but except for a few tiny parts in larger American films -- Memento, Timecop -- he's largely made his name playing colourful roles in small-budget Canadian projects. In Falling Angels, he plays Jim Fields, alcoholic husband and father of three daughters -- angry Lou, vapid Sandy and pudgy Norma -- in 1960s Saskatchewan. Using a barren suburban block in Moose Jaw and a house dashed with the garish accents of 1960s style as backdrops, the film looks at the cultural upheaval of the post-World War II era, played out in the conflicts of a single family living in the shadow of the bomb, the Vietnam War and a buried, festering family secret.
"I think the limited budgets of Canadian movies make them all kind of rural and odd in their own sort of ways," Rennie says, "so it's usually about family, and smaller scenes."
Rennie's portrayal of Jim, who parents like a drill sergeant and forces his family to spend two weeks locked in a backyard bomb shelter in lieu of a trip to Disneyland, is typical in its refusal to let the audience off easy. Jim's an unpleasant drunk who abuses his daughters and cheats on his catatonic wife (Miranda Richardson), but there's no malice, hysteria or overacting for the sake of ego in Rennie's performance at all. Jim's definitely an asshole, but Rennie coaxes sympathy and distaste for him in equal measure.
The film is full of similarly human performances. (Only Richardson, the film's sole marquee name, gives a somewhat flat effort as disturbed wife Mary.) Katharine Isabelle, primed to take over the quintessential Canadian starlet title from Sarah Polley, plays Lou, the angsty, rebellious middle Fields daughter. Isabelle is no stranger to American popcorn fare -- she recently got to be impaled by horror icon Jason Voorhees in super-slasher-flick Freddy Vs. Jason -- but says that while the Canadian industry makes it hard to build a career, the work that's available is usually more rewarding.
"You do these Canadian independent movies, you build up a name, and then you've gotta do shitty TV episodes just to pay your bills," she says. "It's hard to build your career when you keep on having to backtrack to do crappy things to pay for what you're doing. So it's kind of a weird situation. But I prefer the [smaller films] and independents, because everyone wants to be there, and everyone's doing it for a reason."
Falling Angels is full of the kind of unsettling darkness and bizarre characters that often get held up as a kind of plague on this country's filmmaking -- symptoms of some great Canadian perversity, probably something to do with the cold. One of the film's most brilliant bits is a hilarious turn by Mark McKinney as Sandy's (Kristin Adams) boyfriend Reg, a sleazy shoe salesman with an exceedingly creepy surprise. Another is the New Year's Eve montage in which this surprise is unveiled, a haunting series of beautifully shot breakdowns, which also features acid trips, sexual confusion and hints of incest.
"I have trouble with the word 'dark,'" says director Scott Smith. "I'm clearly drawn to what people would call dark stories, but in some ways I think that has something to do with questions. If we're not allowed to be released from the questions in a sense, people call it dark, but [that's] applying a negative judgment on something that's actually really positive and very valuable. It points to the same thing the film points to: why are we afraid to ask questions?"
Smith, whose creative use of the camera and great eye for colour allows him to achieve the kind of mood most current directors need machine-gun cuts and glossy effects to get, says the judgments commonly made on Canadian film are all a matter of perspective. Asked why he thinks Canadians tend to make more offbeat, challenging pictures, he doesn't answer with laments about budgets or an alienating climate.
"Because we can," he says. "I see the larger part of the American industry as in some ways a different industry -- it's a product-making industry. They're doing a great job of pumping those things out. There's really no point in us doing that."
The irony is, for all its quirks, Falling Angels exposes the universality of a family struggle with poignancy, humour and real humanity. Smith's skill in coaxing feeling from fresh compositions, combined with Ken Whiteley's sombre score and Rob Gray's stunning, suffocating sets, makes for that rare thing: an original picture that trades in the most plain and powerful emotions, too pretty to be real but too real to be dismissed. It's one of the year's best Canadian films, and that isn't a sleight. If we feel the need to point out that our side of Niagara Falls is more spectacular at every possible opportunity, we should feel lucky that we needn't do the same for our films.
Besides, says Rennie, it's not that weird.
"Nobody's screwing a dead person."
Original website is down, found by c_regalis via the WayBackMachine here.
The Name of the Game with Callum Keith Rennie
(This is a transcript of excerpts from an interview Callum gave in 2006.)
CKR: And even 'Falling Angels.' Like, 'Falling Angels' to me is a comedy, and it's only a comedy because that, you know, that character is played, you know, head on and oblivious, and that makes him, to me, funny.
CKR: On 'Falling Angels,' luckily, I think when we were talking about the project, I was in Los Angeles, and Molly Parker, a friend of mine, put me on to this acting coach, who gave me a couple of notes on the piece. She just read the script and we talked about it. That was that part of that process, and then also having the book and...And then basing it a little bit on, on...It's, (I?) was fragmented, a little bit of this and a little bit of that, there wasn't any secure, one thing, and then you're also working with a director, so process is such a hard thing to define for me because it changes...it seems to change on every show.
CKR: There are qualities and types of people that you know that you can take certain things from, and I mean, I don't know what...you know, like...I...This is, like, hard, because it's sort of like there's a lot, lot of me in the work, and then there's a lot of bits and pieces that I'm taking from moments, from things that I've seen from other people, or qualities of how they go through their lives. And because they make certain choices, certain things are eliminated. So if you find, like the character in 'Falling Angels,' he's extraordinarily protective of his environment, but he's completely insane about it at the same time. So it makes him...A lot of stuff gets disregarded, and then there's specific focuses on certain things. So, like, in that particular instance, that was...to commit whole-heartedly to that kind of tunnel-vision, and then sort of let whatever out, out...happened, without any judgement or concern of, you know, what the other characters were thinking of you or why.
CKR: Like I find I don't judge the characters negatively, 'cause I can always find something positive about them no matter how bad they are. Or, their actions are bad, but they may not be bad.
This interview originally aired on Bravo!. Transcription is my own.
Director Scott Smith takes on one family's hell with 'Falling Angels'
by Dimitri Katadotis
Though Canadian and a domestic drama, Scott Smith's Falling Angels is not of the dreary sort we've come to expect. More than a little bit surreal, mordant and finally oddly touching, the film gives us the Field clan - daughters Lou (Ginger Snaps' Katherine Isabelle), Sandy (Kristin Adams) and Norma (Monté Gagné), who are, respectively, rebellious, naive and confused; mother Mary (Miranda Richardson), who can barely make it out of the house and self-medicates herself into catatonia with bottles of booze; and father Jim (Callum Keith Rennie), cracked authoritarian extraordinaire, who once confined himself and his own to a bomb shelter for two whole weeks, with no peeking outside. The setting, it might be added, is the late '60s.
Over the course of the film, which is based on the novel by Barbara Gowdy, this decidedly nuclear family engages in a bitter cold war, with Daddy being the enemy - at least to Lou, who's the de facto narrator. They fight, they cajole, they escape and return. Most of all, they try to keep up appearances. Is a metaphor for Canada being offered here?
Smith doesn't think it's that simple. "The perspective is maybe Canadian," he says, "but not the details. We do have a unique perspective, even if we don't always know it." This shouldn't lead you to believe that Smith is adverse to allegory: He goes wild for it, having mulled over his film's radiating layers of meaning while developing the project. "To me, the image of a family that's trapped inside a culture that is equally trapped was powerful and telling," he says. "I kept coming back to the dropping of The Bomb, " he continues, starting to work up a head of steam. "It wasn't just an American act but an Allied act, an act that divided to world into good and evil. But the fact that we dropped the bomb showed that we were capable of evil. And in the postwar period, there was denial or disavowal of this horrible act. At the beginning of the movie we see Jim as the enemy but hopefully by the end we see him differently, we see the shading, the complicity."
That may sound pretty far out. Even Smith knows it, laughing at himself when he's finished. Yet if you turn it over in your mind and kinda squint at it the movie he has made bears him out. "You know, there was a moment when I thought I was going nuts with this stuff, " Smith says. "Then I talked to Barbara and she said, 'The book is about what war did to men and what men then did to women.' I knew I was on the right track."
Still, you don't have to tune in to the High Ideas to enjoy Falling Angels. Keith Rennie, for one, gives a wind-up-cuckoo-clock performance as daddy Jim and the always-cunning Isabelle does angry disenchantment with aplomb. But the real scene stealer is Mark McKinney, who turns up as an unfortunate love interest - a full-on creep with a goofy smile and cheesy mustache. "What I initially liked about the book is that it dealt with such tragic material in such a sardonic way," says Smith. And so with the movie.
Connections between characters
For director Scott Smith, choosing actors is most of the work
by Jason Lewis
Aspiring filmmakers probably won't want to hear this, but according to director Scott Smith, by the time you make it to the first day on set, the movie is almost already made.
Don't be mistaken – Smith knows the importance of editing and admires directors who can understand photography, but for him, it's all in the casting.
"I don't know what I would do with a film where I couldn't select the cast," says Smith. "I think that is 90 per cent of the job, especially when you are talking about the performance of the actors."
Based on the novel by Barbara Gowdy, Smith's second feature, Falling Angels, introduces us to the Fields family, an emotionally demolished suburban unit at the height of '60s Cold War stress. With an ensemble cast against a period backdrop, the film offers universal themes tempered with a Canadian voice. Smith says his sensibilities and sense of humour are in line with those of the novel and while some would say that this contributes an almost intangible "Canadian" quality, he has a more concrete explanation.
"When the budget goes down, the amount of time you have to shoot something goes down, the camera moves farther away. I think that is what people react to a lot when they see Canadian stuff. The Americans can put you right in the action times 10. So there is a huge difference in the (way we) experience films when watching them. It literally has to do with the camera moving farther away."
And with a cast like the one assembled for Falling Angels, who needs a close up. Oscar nominee Miranda Richardon, film festival darling Katherine Isabelle, former Kid in the Hall Mark McKinney and Callum Keith Rennie all turn in great performances. Finding this cast proved challenging, but for Smith it was the most rewarding aspect of the shoot. Finding the right actors for the roles isn't easy on a meagre $4 million budget.
The first step was getting Richardson, who Smith tracked down at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival when she was promoting Spider. Once she agreed there was the task of casting the three teenaged daughters at the core of the film. There were extensive casting calls in Vancouver, Toronto and Regina and when Smith wasn't casting the main parts he pulling actresses off the streets of Moose Jaw to appear in supporting roles.
"I probably saw 700 teenage girls last summer," says Smith, who eventually found Kristin Adams and Monte Gagne and Katharine Isabelle in auditions.
"When I cast them, I was thinking, 'Oh my God, these girls are as different from each other as they could possibly be.'" That may have suited the antagonistic nature of teenaged siblings, but Smith didn't know how that would translate into a working relationship. As it happens the three girls, who were all only children, bonded quickly.
"They were inseparable for a while," says Smith. "They are these three really different girls who only have this movie in common and who have kind of been sisters ever since."
Smith's relentless hunt for actors was balanced by some fortuitous word of mouth when it came to casting the male leads.
"People like Callum (Keith Rennie) and Mark McKinney kind of chased it down. In both cases I hadn't thought of them specifically, but when their names came up, I thought, 'Wow, that's interesting,'" says Smith. "It was a varied casting process for sure"
Despite the challenge, Smith would never complain about having to assemble such a large cast, especially considering the talent he amassed. For him an ensemble like this is where he gets his strongest inspiration.
"It's sometimes difficult for me to imagine a movie that is about one relationship. When you try to envision a film in your head, you envision these physical strands that make it up, and how they contribute to a larger structure. That is easier to see when I have more than one piece.
"There is always more meaning and meat in between things than there are in them. The more opportunity there is to go between things, to cut back and forth between things, to make connections between characters and storylines, the more room for resonance there is."
Falling Angels (2003)
For the rest of this week we've been looking at new and recent releases, but those excellent folks at The Film Movement are re-releasing this 2003 Canadian drama on DVD this month, and it seems as good a time as any to watch it. After all, a good film should be timeless, shouldn't it?
Luckily Falling Angels (based on the Barbara Gowdy novel of the same name) fully deserves the attention, as it presents us with a carefully constructed tale about living with tragedy, sexual awakening and mental disorder. It also gives us a surprisingly realistic and believable snapshot of smalltown life in the late Sixties.
Highly-talented British actress Miranda Richardson may top the bill as Mary Field, but this is really the story of her three daughters, and their coming of age. Mary spends most of her time in a semi-catatonic state on the sofa, while her alcoholic husband Jim (Callum Keith Rennie) rules the household the only way he knows how - with a precision based on his experiences in the military.
It's against this background that the three sisters grow and develop. Lou (Katherine Isabelle, better known for her roles in Insomnia and the Ginger Snaps movie series) resents her father's tyranny, and looks to rebel against him at every opportunity. When a new kid comes to school, bringing with him tales of the cultural and sexual revolution sweeping America, it's only natural that she should pin all her hopes on him.
Meanwhile her sister Sandy (Kristin Adams) tries to be the perfect woman, a role which includes a naive sense of sexuality. She finds herself attracted to married father-figure Reg Shelman, but when he tries to bring his twin brother into the bedroom it becomes clear that they have different ideas of where the relationship is going.
That just leaves Norma (Monte Gagne), the dowdiest of the three sisters, and the one who struggles most to make herself heard. She silently holds the family together, while keeping alive the memory of the tragedy that shook Mary and Jim before the girls were born - the death of their older brother while he was still in infancy. When Norma finds herself attracted to another girl at school she's pulled in two directions, and something has to give.
All of this sets up the familial situation, but it's the events of New Year's Eve that bring matters to a head and change everyone's lives in irrevocable ways.
Richardson is unusually subdued as Mary, and you can't help feeling that her talents are wasted on what turns out to be a pivotal but unexplored role - Rennie shines as her husband Jim, however, and it's easy to see why he's become one of Canada's best-known actors. Jim could all too easily have been turned into a brutally simplistic tyrant, but Rennie imbues his performance with enough layers to have us loathing him and pitying him at the same time. In the end, everyone here is damaged goods.
Given the importance placed on their characters the girls do a wonderful job too, particularly Katherine Isabelle as Lou. A single mis-step could have brought the carefully constructed world of the movie tumbling down, but they manage to keep everything centred in a rather melancholy reality.
It's only Mark McKinney, playing twins Reg and Ron Shelman, who strikes a false chord, his performance more suited to a black comedy than this touching and intelligent drama. While the rest of the film carefully crafts a realistic picture of the late Sixties, McKinney looks like he's auditioning for a sitcom. It's a miscalculation that almost derails the film entirely, but thankfully his role is small enough to limit the damage.
Falling Angels may be a little slow for some tastes, but some fine central performances and outstanding attention to period detail keep us interested in both the narrative and the visuals. If only Miranda Richardson's character had been allowed to develop more fully, director Scott Smith could have achieved something truly great.
Found by c_regalis. Original post is here.
scriggle posted some picspam here.
I was unable to find any meta or fic. If you know of any interesting links that I might have missed, please do let me know!
The movie is readily available through any number of online stores, including Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. The Canadian version of the DVD has deleted scenes, and a very charming, intelligent director's commentary, which includes--among other things--some discreet fanboy-ing of CKR.
mindyfromohio points out that if you live in the US and have a PC, you can also watch the film "instantly" on Netflix.
Though it sounds like another dull cliche, this film is anything but. It is beautiful, full of flawlessly recreated period details, and filmed in such a way that it just makes you want to live in it. It is also surprisingly funny. The film really belongs to the three sisters, and follows their often feeble, often hilarious, always fascinating attempts to find what they need outside of the broken clockwork of their family. The three young actresses (Katherine Isabelle, Kristin Adams and Monté Gagné) have created fully-realized characters, and it is difficult not to feel for them.
And then, there's Callum. Yet again, the man has pulled off one of his magic tricks. Jim Field is an irrational, volatile tyrant and drunk. In another film, he would be the undisputed villain of the piece. Not here. Callum has yet again managed to reach inside this character, find the brittle fragility that drives his anger, and show it to us in such a way that we cannot help but feel sympathy for him. He also gets a rare opportunity for comedy. And, though there is absolutely zero slash potential in this film (which possibly explains why there is no fic), he looks great. Apparently, grim and short-haired and 43 looks good on him (like, what the hell doesn't?).