RJ and Chris were raised in the Mormon Church. Both accelerated academically, progressed ecclesiastically, and were eventually deemed worthy to serve their mission. The secrets of their lives were awakened while in the service of their fellow man. The Falls captured the lives of two American teens struggling to make sense of the conflicts between their worlds, their feelings, and each other. Now five years after their mission, RJ Smith is living in Seattle, and has a long-term boyfriend Paul. RJ is a writer for a Seattle magazine, and making a name for himself as an author of LGBT subject matter. He is no longer a practicing Mormon, yet there is still much about him that is resonant of the Church in which he was raised. Though he is in a healthy relationship with his partner, Paul, he finds it hard to shake the memories of his mission. He finds himself reliving the events in his mind, or through his writing. Chris Merrill, however, is still living in the Church, though he often thinks of his former Missionary Companion. He is dealing with his separation from the man he loves in a very different manner as he is still a devout Mormon and living what he believes to be an “honorable” life. When an unexpected tragedy finds them in the small Oregon town where they served their mission— Clackamas Falls—they suddenly find themselves reliving the experiences that brought them together as two young missionaries.
NOTE DI REGIA:
After filming The Falls in 2010, I spent the following two years in the post-production process. With little to no budget and limited prior knowledge about editing, I took my time learning the process and crafting the movie I wanted to make. With a crew of no more than four people, we were able to shoot The Falls in seventeen days on a budget of less than $10,000. Actors and crew worked for little to nothing during this time to bring the story to life. It seemed that everyone involved cared deeply about this script and in the potential of the story. Ultimately, The Falls was made possible through the collaborative efforts of people who cared about the film and its message. After much hard work and a successful run of festivals that included screenings in various cities around the world, The Falls was selected for distribution by Breaking Glass Pictures, and released in December 2012. Following the release, I began hearing from people who were touched by the story of Chris and RJ in The Falls. Many wondered what happened after the tumultous end of the characters’ Mission. After many
inquiries, I decided to write a sequel to The Falls. I received emails from all over the world—the United States, Russia, South America, China, to name a few—and was inspired to write. The pace at which we completed The Falls: Testament of Love—seven months from concept to delivery—is a testament to the inspired actors and crew who worked on this film. The Falls and The Falls: Testament of Love are films about faith, family, and staying true to yourself. You do not need to be a follower of any particular faith, or identify with a specific sexual orientation to understand the film’s message. It is, at its very roots, a story about the transformational power of Love.
Out of nowhere it seemed, a sweet little LGBT love story called The Falls seemed to capture a special place in the hearts of audiences nationwide when it hit home video in 2012. A tender romance centered around two Mormon missionaries named RJ (Nick Ferrucci) and Chris (Benjamin Farmer), The Falls dealt with its religious themes respectfully and with much dignity while also telling a believable and rather wonderful, but ultimately doomed, love story.
While it’s not exactly common in the indie world, we’re treated to a sequel that picks up five years later as RJ and Chris’s lives have taken remarkably different paths. Chris is living in Seattle with a boyfriend (Thomas Stroppel) and writing on LGBT issues, while RJ returned to Salt Lake City and, after some of that “anti-gay” therapy, has gotten back into the good graces of his family and his church and is now married, to Emily (Hannah Barefoot), with a child and a good job in pharmaceutical sales. When the death of a mutual friend leads to their reunion, the two men meet briefly before heading back on their own paths.
With those old feelings triggered, Chris can’t just let things go and having returned to Seattle breaks things up with his boyfriend and journeys back to RJ’s doorstep unannounced and uninvited. As the old feelings are rekindled, RJ and Chris must once again confront their seemingly impossible love. Will this reunion prove that they are, in fact, fated to be together?
Released to home video by QC Cinema, the LGBT distribution arm of Breaking Glass Pictures, The Falls: Testament of Love contains much of what we loved about the original film, most notably that tender and believable chemistry between RJ and Chris presented in a way that is both emotionally resonant and thought-provoking.
As was true of the original film, The Falls: Testament of Love isn’t about paint-by-numbers answers to major life issues. Writer/director Jon Garcia, who also had the same roles with the original film, is smart enough and has enough artistic integrity to know that telling this story demands that respect and insight be offered for all the parties involved. While the original film struggled just a bit in terms of selling both RJ and Chris as actual missionaries, both men have now left that role and we are left to contemplate and work through the issues surrounding love, desire, expectation, faith and family.
Just a few small issues, ya know?
Perhaps it’s the benefit of having the key players from your distributor signed on as executive producers (Richard Wolff and Richard Ross), but even some of the tech issues experienced in the original film are not to be found in this production that still runs just a tad too long at a solid two hours. In addition to the terrific performances from Ferrucci and Farmer, Hannah Barefoot is remarkably solid in her supporting role and only a couple of the minor players serve up inconsistent performances.
D.P. Christopher Stephens lenses the film beautifully with an intimacy and gentleness that makes you completely surrender to this love whatever the outcome may be. The same is true for Emily Kerkstra’s excellent production design.
The folks at QC Cinema have put together fine packaging for the film including deleted scenes, interviews with the director and cast, and a Q&A from the film’s world premiere at the Portland Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. The Falls: Testament of Love is available now on DVD from QC Cinema.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic (theindependentcritic.com)