After finding a lot of success at film festivals, Free Fall makes it way to DVD in the UK. It’s been described as the German Brokeback Mountain, and while there are similarities, they’re more on the surface than going deep. Indeed this is more a morality tale than an examination of forbidden love in a deeply homophobic society.
Marc (Hanno Koffler) seems to have it all – he’s set to be part of an elite police squad, he’s moved in with his girlfriend and has a baby on the way. While training he meets Kay (Max Riemelt) and they start to go on jogs together. After a brief sexual encounter in the forest, Marc runs off and decides it was just a one off. However soon he comes back for more and he starts exploring new parts of himself – although he’s still insistent that he’s isn’t gay or even bisexual.
Initially he thinks he can keep his affair a secret, but as Kay experiences homophobic abuse by fellow police cadets and Marc’s new baby brings his relationship with his girlfriend into sharp focus, the secrets can’t stay buried forever.
Movies about outwardly straight guys having an affair with another man have become relatively commonplace in gay cinema, but most are problematic, largely over how they treat the female characters. They become the villain of the piece, standing in the way of our (male) hero’s happiness. Free Fall deliberately eschews that, as while you never stop caring about Marc, he increasingly becomes the antihero as the movie continues.
He initially seems to think he can have his cake and eat it, keeping everyone happy, but comes to realise that his actions will have fallout for all involved and could end up hurting an awful lot of people, not just his girlfriend, but Kay and all around them too. And when that happens, the movie has ensured you care enough about all the characters to really feel for them.
It’s a moving tale where no one is doing quite the right the thing but you can empathise with the position they’re in, even if you don’t agree with it. There is pain and emotion in all the characters, helped greatly by good performances from the leads, who manage to create a great sense of intimacy. You can feel what each is getting from their relationships and what is at risk.
There are problems, including the fact that Kay is rather let off the hook, even though he knowingly goes into a relationship with a man who he’s aware has a live-in girlfriend. It’s partly the fault of Max Riemelt, as he almost too good in the role, coming across as so sweet and charming that even though there are things in the script that should make him feel culpable, he’s a bit like a puppy dog and the blame rolls right off him. I also got slightly annoyed with the movie gay sex. While straight sex in films often veers away from reality, there’s a slight tendency in gay-themed films to show guys having sex in ways no-one probably ever has – at least not without extreme discomfort. Free Fall is still pretty sexy, but it is slightly annoying. It would be even sillier if the film didn’t create a great sense of intimacy and passion between the men’s not quite believable insertions.
Overall Verdict: The ‘German Brokeback Mountain’ soubriquet may not be quite right, but Free Fall is still a very good film – a morality tale showing that even if something offers passion and intimacy you never thought you would have, it can still cause a lot of pain if you try and hide the truth.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac