I recently watched a film called Woodfalls, and I’ve been thinking about how to approach this post since I saw it a couple of weeks ago. Have you ever just liked something but can’t exactly tell why? I think it has to do with the sum of this film’s parts culminating in something greater. This was the case with Woodfalls.
**Please note that this review contains what some may consider to be mild spoilers**
Woodfalls is about a family of travelers who move to a rural town, and the conflict that ensues with some of the locals as a result of their arrival. Stigmatised as ‘gypsies’, they are not welcomed into, and are often abused by the community.
The film is a single story segmented into three parts, told from the perspectives of Damon, Billy and Rebecca. They are more-or-less within the same peer group, and so for starters the film is told from their youthful perspective, including parties and the music that accompanies them, drugs, and pointless fighting. You know, stupid shit young people do. I sound like an old man, but really I’m not judging, rather commenting on how well this is all captured in the film.
I particularly enjoyed how many scenes about parties or drug use are captured in a Requiem-for-a-Dream-esque fashion with the use of music, camera movement and effects. However, re-watching the film, I wondered whether it would have done better with more contemporary, less electronic music.
Damon is our first glance into the world of Woodfalls, and he seems like one of the local hooligans. We see a damaged kid with some deep personal issues; my only regret is that we don’t see more of his past and his story played out on screen. I think with a little bit more exposition in this arc, we would have got a better look at who Damon is and why he is the way he is.
Billy is the eldest of two siblings who live as travelers with their mother. Initially, he gets into a fight with a bunch of locals, including Damon, but later makes some friends and starts to integrate fairly well into the community. He ends up going to lots of parties, and losing touch with his former lifestyle and cultural background as a traveler.
Rebecca is the epitome of innocence; there’s a lot about the rest of the world outside of their unique traveler lifestyle that she just doesn’t get. Being Billy’s younger sibling, and a girl, it seems like she is way more shielded by her brother and mother, and follows her family and religion quite obediently, for the most part.
My favourite bit of character insight in this (or any film I’ve seen this year) is when Becca is cleaning their caravan after it’s been vandalised. Billy stands nearby asking her what the vandals have written. She tells him, and then asks him what it means.
The film does drag a little bit during the middle portion, as we see Billy exploring more of the town, engaging with its inhabitants and starting his integration. I understand why this was done, but it felt slightly disproportionate in terms of what we get from other main characters. This is probably heresy from me, but I would definitely watch an episodic version of Woodfalls that explored more of the characters in greater depth over a longer period of time.
But the film has a clear beginning, middle and end, which is brought together really comprehensively considering that it’s done from the perspectives of three different characters. The film forces audiences to face a bunch of really difficult ideas and situations, but ensures that all of these drive the story forward; in this sense, it gets better and better as the film goes on.
Woodfalls has a harrowing rape scene that’s shot in a way that emphasizes how despicable the act is. I believe that when rape is used in any narrative, we should hold artists accountable for using it. In this case, I believe that it being part of the character’s story made sense. It was the worst thing that could happen in the situation at hand, and it did.
The thing that really struck me about Woodfalls is that it’s a brilliant drama on a low budget. Drama is really difficult to pull off; to make people care about your characters, to make people feel and not just watch in a voyeuristic manner. Woodfalls definitely pulls this off, although it may not be engaging the feelings you expect when the film starts out, which is even more interesting. It’s a rather tragic story, and if you’re up for a hard look at issues of youth culture, and stigma around marginalised groups then you’re watching the right film.
After watching this film and seeing a recent interview on Arise News Channel, I’m really excited to see what director David Campion does next. He has a very direct, unapologetic approach to the subject matter he selects, and this is the type of honesty that good filmmaking requires. Bravo!
Watch the trailer for Woodfalls below:
Favourite Moment: The verbal exchange between Billy and Becca mentioned above.
About the Author: Stephen is a very honest film critic, and aspiring writer-director, currently working on his first project, #BreatheEasy2016. Follow him on Twitter @thesnagel for more film rants and ramblings.