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The Independent Critic

Cecile Butt, Bruno Talotta, Sarah Plummer, Noelle DuBois, James Dubbeldam, Ron MacDonald, Graham Sage
James Dubbeldam
78 Mins.

 "Fallen Before Falling" Review 
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As an abused child, Anastasia (Cecile Butt) would close her eyes and picture herself sitting in a field. Following a mental breakdown, Anastasia rents an abandoned farmhouse in an effort to find some peace and, perhaps, exorcise her demons both real and imaginary.

Anastasia's mother, Susan (Sarah Plummer), appears at the farm many times during her visit, a visit plagued by bouts of loneliness, delusion, erupted memory and fits of poor decision-making including with Matthew (Bruno Talotta), the handsome farmer from whom she rents the farmhouse and with whom she harbors a not so secret crush.

Will Anastasia emerge from the farmhouse with sanity intact? Or will the isolation only exacerbate the fractures that seemingly exist within her fragile existence?

Writer/Director James Dubbeldam has fashioned this low-budget indie in such a way that one is never quite clear what to make of Anastasia, a lack of clarity made all the more poignant by Butt's fragile and edgy performance that constantly leaves you wondering. Without a solid central performance, Fallen Before Falling would inevitably implode under the weight of its dramatic subject matter and heightened situations. Fortunately, Dubbeldam is gifted with Cecile Butt, who takes Anastasia and turns her into a woman who is simultaneously grasping for self-control while comfortably resigned within delusions brought so vividly to life that at times even the audience may believe they are real.

While the supporting players generally redeem themselves nicely, especially Bruno Talotta as the seemingly good-hearted farmer who has just enough edge that you're never quite sure, the simple truth is that Fallen Before Falling is ultimately character study about this struggling actress searching for peace in a not so peaceful world within and outside her wounded psyche'.

Michael Jari Davidson's camera work is crisp and clear, while the original score by Michael Kulas helps drive home the mounting stress as this psychological thriller goes into overdrive as Anastasia's sanity is called more and more into question.

As is true for virtually any low-budget indie, some of the supporting players in Fallen Before Falling are a tad stilted, while Dubbeldam's ambition is occasionally undone by production values that don't quite measure up in terms of pacing and building of suspense. At times, Fallen Before Falling feels like more of a psychological drama than a psychological thriller.

Fallen Before Falling is a solid indie effort, an intriguing psychological exploration of mental illness, loneliness and the varied ways in which we cope with the fractures that occur along life's journey. Led by Cecile Butt's controlled yet vulnerable performance, Fallen Before Falling is a film to watch for on the ultra-indie festival circuit in 2011.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic