For our second night at the Portland Film Festival. we saw one of the movies we were anticipating the most – the world premiere of the sequel to The Falls, a story about a pair of gay mormon missionaries, RJ and Chris, who fall in love while on a mission.
The first story was a sweet and fairly straightforward love story; the two guys meet, fall in love, go through some trials and tribulations, and end up together at the end.
The second film is a bit more complex. The Falls: Testament of Love, opens five years later. RJ and Chris spent a year together on the road and then went back to their families to wrap up some loose ends. But then time passes, and Chris no longer responds to RJ. In the intervening years, he goes back to his faith, meets and marries a beautiful woman, and has a child, while RJ moves to Seattle and meets a new guy.
The death of a mutual friend brings the two back together and gets the plot moving, as they try to figure out where life has left them.
In many ways, it’s an old story now – gay guy stays in the closet to please his family and church, while hos lover gets the short shrift.
But the setting in the Mormon church, where this story is still very much an everyday occurrance, makes it fresh.
You also can’t help but feel for the two other characters who become collateral damage here – RJ’s boyfriend and Chris’s wife – as the two start to reconnect.
Another strength of this film – I didn’t know where it was going to end up until the very end. That’s rare.
It’s a well done movie, asking some serious questions about love vs personal responsibility and how our actions affect the ones we love.
The film was shot mostly here in Portland, making the decision to hold the Premier here a natural one.
The writer, Jon Garcia, was also the filmmaker. During the Q&A afterwards, he said the whole process (from writing to final product) took just 7 1/2 months, and it was shot in 22 days (with some of those days running 21 hours).
He’s not a Mormon himself, but a Catholic – but he did a lot of research for the first film, and carried that over into the second. The door was clearly left open for a third film, but he was a bit cagey about any plans.
One of the best scenes in the film involves the two fathers – when Chris’s father calls RJ’s dad to try to get RJ to back off. RJ’s father, who is clearly still a little ambivalent to his son’s homosexuality, nevertheless backs him up all the way against the other father’s bigotry. We met the actor who played RJ’s dad after the show, and he seemed genuinely thrilled that his performance was so appreciated,
The biggest laugh in the Q&A came when someone asked how mant takes were needed to shoot Chris’s masturbation scene (yes there is one). Three, apparently, And Nick Ferrucci, the actor who plays RJ, said he made a point of coming in to watch the filming that day, even though he had the day off.
The actors who played RJ’s lover Paul (Thomas Stroppel) and Chris’s wife Emily (Hannah Barefoot) deserve special recognition for playing their parts with nuance and complex emotions. complex currents of family love mixed messages. Neither deserved what they got, but both handled it with a certain grace.
Benjamin Farmer, who played Chris, also did a fantastic job portraying his character’s evolution throughout the film.
While still at its heart a love story, The Falls: Testament to Love presents a wonderfully complex look at families, commitments, and the intersection of religion and love. It’s coming to other film festivals around the country soon – catch it in the theater.if you can.