Opinion: The Fall – a film as powerful in its silences as in its words

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  • The Fall is a masterful film, and one I wish never had to be made. I mean that only as a credit to its creators. The delicate and sensitive handling of a painful subject matter, personal to a number of those involved, was expertly done.

    Equine Productions’ striking 22-minute feature has sat with me all week, since the early premier at Ascot racecourse on Saturday.

    The film, co-directed by Cold Feet star Robert Bathurst, focuses on a jockey’s car journey home after a high-profile fall at the final fence. While the jockey, Tom, and his story are fiction, every social media message used was real. It is raw, painful, believable and hard to watch.

    Nathan Horrocks’ script is as powerful in its silences as it is in its words. The unsaid is left hanging loudly in the air – the space between what someone feels, what they say and what they mean orbiting in every scene.

    The simplicity of taking one snapshot of one person’s day and the gaps in the story the audience is left to fill is what makes The Fall so effective in its message. That is made possible by the excellent directing and casting in particular of Daniel Thrace as Tom and Chloe Wade as his girlfriend Emily. The mirroring of their stories – their own battles they are facing and the masks they use both as a shield against themselves and to face the outside world – is again as powerful in what the audience can see as what is left undisclosed.

    I wish it was a story that didn’t have to be told. The important thing is that it has been, paving the way for more conversations, more changes and a better future.

    The discussion that followed at Ascot, hosted by Nick Luck, was cause for hope, too, highlighting the impact and want to talk the film had inspired in just one room. When this film premieres tonight, that will take those challenging discussions far beyond the racecourse’s gates.

    Held to account

    On the subject of hope, a year ago, I wrote of hope from the industry’s collective push for change. One year on and that hope is still there, mixed with anger – no longer anger at the sport. Anger at the faceless social media powerhouses that choose not to do more to protect their users.

    I’m a passionate believer in free speech – I’d be in the wrong job if I wasn’t – but there is unbearable ignorance surrounding what that means. There is a 477 page book on my desk, giving a light summary. To sum-up, freedom of expression categorically does not mean you can say or print what you like, when you like and expect the world to say “oh ok, it’s a free country, as you were…”

    “Don’t read the comments”, is a phrase people in certain industries and in the public eye, among others, will be all too familiar with. How about “don’t make the comments”? Even better, combine that with social media giants taking proper action – that they very well can take – and it becomes “be held accountable for your comments”.

    There needs to be a shift-change to stop the perpetrators, rather than pushing the onus onto those on the receiving end. I’m not just talking about social media or sport here. It’s bigger than that, and I wish I had the answers.

    I don’t have those, sadly. What I do have is faith that growing numbers of people care enough to make that change happen.

    The Fall, funded by the Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust, the Professional Jockeys Association, and the Even Keel Foundation, premieres at 10pm tonight (7 October) on Sky Sports Racing. It will also available on catch-up.

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