Viggo Mortensen’s new film, ‘Falling’ draws on his upbringing

Viggo Mortensen was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in 2018’s “Green Book,” but his long career includes Oscar nominated roles in 2017’s “Captain Fantastic” and David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises,” (2007). Mortensen has been memorable in films as different as “A History of Violence” and  “Crimson Tide,” and then, of course, there’s “Lord of the Rings.”

His new film, “Falling,” is a bit of a departure.

He wrote the screenplay, directed and stars as John, a man grappling with the care of his aged and bitter father who is battling dementia. It’s Mortensen’s directorial debut.

“I see myself, and always did, long before directing ‘Falling,’ as a movie story-teller,” he wrote in an email.

The film is a precarious, yet often tender journey into the lives of a fractured upstate New York family.

Laura Linney co-stars as John’s sister, Sarah; Lance Henriksen as his father, Willis; and Hannah Gross plays Gwen, John’s mother. David Cronenberg, a noted film director, has a small cameo, as well.

Viggo Mortensen, right, wrote, directed and stars in the new film "Falling."

“Falling” is available in theaters, on digital and on demand Feb. 5. 

The story weaves back and forth from present day California, where John now lives, to pivotal moments from his past on the family farm told in flashbacks, including his parents’ divorce and mother’s death.

Mortensen’s John is a steady, introspective father in a same-sex marriage that his father openly disdains. John works hard to find some common ground with Willis, who is not only homophobic, but racist, misogynistic and bitter about life. His rants are vitriolic and often vile.

Mahershala Ali, as Don Shirley, and Viggo Mortensen, as Tony Lip, in a scene from "Green Book." Mortensen was nominated for an Oscar for his performance.

Mortensen, who grew up in Watertown, New York, and now lives part of the year in Spain, says that while “Falling” is not autobiographical, he imbued it with details from his own upbringing, particularly his parents’ divorce and dementia, which he has said runs in his family.

“Although the story of  ‘Falling’ is a fiction,” he wrote in an email, “using a few details I recalled from my childhood and adolescence – plus the evolution of dementia in my mother, father and other family members – its conscience or moral fulcrum is the character of Gwen, the character that stands in for my mother.

Sam Son

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