Damnation or Rejection
Terrence Odette’s “Fall” is a dramatic look at the toll that morality places upon Father Sam (Michael Murphy) as he ministers to his small congregation in Niagara Falls. Fewer and fewer people attend services that seem to remind people as to how much the church is out of touch with the reality of the modern world.
Father Sam is burdened with the morality and existentialism that comes with guiding the faith of so many believers (and would-be believers) and his many sleepless nights reveal to us (and to him) that he is a man grappling with many of the same questions of the afterlife as his parishioners. Reza, a gay man, accuses Father Sam of picking and choosing which lessons of the Bible to teach to his congregation.
We learn of Father Sam’s sins early on when a letter addressed from Sault Ste. Marie offers a cryptic reminiscence of a night spent by the Father’s side. There is, in the letter, an allusion to indiscretion, but it contains no explicit charge other than that Father Sam shared a special bond with this younger male correspondent. The sins of the Father come indirectly come into question as he helps a couple, (Michael Luckett and Katie Boland) move towards the sacrament of marriage. He witnesses a lapse in the fidelity by one of the fiancés and, as he confronts the obvious love between the two and the damage that would be caused by the truth, he finds himself at his own moral crossroads.
Michael Murphy gives a brilliant and exceptionally subtle performance as Father Sam. He plays the conflicted clergyman with a caring and beleaguered grace. We see that Father Sam doesn’t merely go through the motions as he prepares for each mass and provides guidance for his parishioners, we also sense the weariness and the anxiety that creeps into Murphy’s character giving us a man who is uncomfortable with his faith. This is probably because he knows he will have to pay for his sins when his time comes.
Father Sam’s future into question with the weight he carries and the complexity of Father Sam’s questioning develops as he makes several trips up north. His character is put directly in the crosshairs only once when one of his visits leads him to confront Catherine (Suzanne Clement), the sister of the man with whom he allegedly had a past relationship. Catherine lays a charge on Father Sam that shatters him. However, as viewers, we wonder whether the priest is shaken by his grief, shock, or exposure. We question the Father’s past and see that his actions might have been innocent and he might not be guilty of criminal misconduct, but, rather, abandonment. We are asked if it is possible to escape sins or atone for them. We never know if he is redeemed or damned—it is our call.