The Falls, directed by Chung Mong-hong, is a Taiwanese drama that deals with a family forced to spend time with one another as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The audience can relate to the anxiety and the physical toll caused by the virus outbreak shown in the film. From economic crisis to personal revelation, “The Falls” tries to bring it all together to create this poignant watch. While the visuals and the story are embedded with meaning, it sometimes lacks the touch of reality with easy solutions to difficult situations. With a stellar performance from the cast, “The Falls” is an engaging watch that reminds the audience of the horror of the pandemic.
‘The Falls’ Plot Summary
The film revolves around a mother-daughter duo; the daughter is evidently not fond of the mother and prefers to have things done her way. While Xiao Jing (the daughter) attends school, Pin-wen (the mother) enters her office chamber only to find an email informing her about the company’s decision in favor of a pay-cut.
Meanwhile, Xiao Jing’s classmates test positive for COVID, and the class is asked to self-quarantine themselves. This news reached Pin-wen’s office, and she was asked to take leave as well. Trapped in their house, the mother and daughter are forced to face one another. Xiao Jing actively avoids her mother by staying mostly in her room, while Pin-wen takes charge of the household chores. As her daughter maintained a distance, citing the pandemic rules, the mother could no longer handle her daughter’s impolite behavior. The story takes a turn when the mother goes through a mental breakdown, and the daughter is forced to take responsibility for not just herself but also her mother.
While the global panic regarding the pandemic is often mentioned in “The Falls” through television and news, the impact that the pandemic had on families is focused on where the loss is personal. The mother-daughter relationship is chaotic but emotional as well. Xiao Jing is gradually able to comfort her mother and her thoughts after facing a few sudden reactions as a result of her mother’s psychosis.
Why Was Pin-Wen Hospitalized?
As the film progresses, we learn that Pin-wen had divorced her partner three years back but was still emotionally attached to him. She hoped that her ex-husband would return to her, even though he was married and had a son.
As Pin-wen was getting frustrated with her daughter’s behavior, she called her ex-husband home in search of some comfort. She explained to him how Xiao Jing left a note asking her to maintain distance and even went to the extent of writing abusive words on her dinner plate. Hearing this, her ex-husband agreed to have a word with their daughter. That night, Pin-wen became delusional. She imagined that it was heavily pouring outside. She rushed to her daughter’s room and found her missing. She ran out of the building onto the road in a manic rush to search for her daughter.
Xiao Jing received a call from the hospital informing her of her mother’s health. Pin-wen was found standing on a bridge, not in her right state of mind. When Xiao Jing’s father confronted her about her behavior with her mother, she admitted to writing a note asking to maintain distance, though she denied having written any abusive words to her mother. It might have been a piece of Pin-wen’s imagination as well.
“The Falls” has several visually stunning moments, especially at night when the mother goes out looking for her daughter. The building, from the very beginning, is shown to be covered in a construction tarp that heightens the idea of being trapped inside the building and also gives rise to a sense of suffocation. In the night scene, the light that reflects from the tarp is blue, creating the right setting for the eeriness that arises from Pin-wen’s behavior.
The Role Reversal
Xiao Jing gradually realized that her mother was unemployed, and her doubt was confirmed when she had a word with her office employees. But Pin-wen made it a point to go to her office every day and wait at the reception area. She felt clueless and helpless, unable to comprehend her gradual decline.
Xiao Jing took charge of the situation; she nursed her mother and took care of the critical financial condition. She learned of the various dues that her mother had to pay and tried to find a solution. She felt that selling their current apartment was a necessary step, as they could easily be accommodated in a smaller apartment. Her mother disagreed. She did not wish to sell the apartment that her ex-husband had bought as she believed he would return and they would reunite as a family. Her daughter had to call her father to help Pin-wen face the reality. Her ex-husband expressed that he would not return to the house.
The mother and daughter shifted to a smaller apartment and were able to clear their dues. Pin-wen began work in a department store. She was on the path of recovery, though she had to deal with her social anxiety.
As the relationship between the mother and her daughter slowly improved with time, the construction tarp came off. Light entered the apartment, making it a lot more beautiful and serene. The mother’s mental health can also be connected to the tarp. As she gradually recovered with the help of her daughter, light entered the apartment.
‘The Falls’ Ending Explained: Did Xiao Jing Survive The Accident?
After taking a break from school and spending days with her mother, she finally decided to attend the school barbecue. Her mother encouraged her to go as she felt a lot more confident than before. Xiao Jing went with her school friends and teacher to the riverside. After the barbecue, the students were enjoying the river when suddenly a mishap took place. The river water level rose and washed away several students, including Xiao Jing. When Pin-wen was informed of the accident, she was left dumbfounded. She turned on the television, and the news explained that it was due to a sudden release of dam water that such an accident took place. She closely watched the students who were rescued, hoping to find her daughter. She finally saw Xiao Jing and was relieved and overjoyed to know that her daughter had survived the accident.
In a conversation with Xiao Jing, Pin-wen explained that she often heard a sound, and she assumed it was the sound of machines. No matter how hard she tried to stop the sound, she could not. She would wait for the sound to dissolve, though recently, she realized that it was the sound of waterfalls. Surprisingly, when she tried to move away from that noise, she could hear the sound of rivers and streams. It was only upon realizing that the sound was that of waterfalls and not machines that she was finally able to move away from it.
Unlike a machine that can be turned off, the water from the waterfalls flows much like life itself. The waterfalls symbolized the extreme mental pressure that the mother had after losing her husband, her job, and the fear of losing her daughter in the process as well. With Xiao Jing’s love and affection, the water from the falls finally landed in the streams, bringing peace to the mother’s life. Be it mentally in Pen-win’s case or physically in Xiao Jing’s case, the mother-daughter duo faced adversities and managed to find their way back in life.
‘The Falls’ is a 2021 Taiwanese Drama thriller film directed by Chung Mong-hong. It is streaming on Netflix.