Break My Fall

Originally published by So So Gay Magazine

The streets of London aren’t so much paved with gold in writer, producer and director Kanchi Wichmann’s first feature, Break My Fall, as they are with vomit, rubbish and the lovely-sounding ‘squat-juice’. Nevertheless, Wichmann has succeeded in making a film that shines, downplaying the indie-beat vibe in favour of a low-key and powerfully raw look at love on the rocks.

Lesbians Liza (Kat Redstone) and Sally (Sophie Anderson) live in a flat in Hackney that’s in as severe a state of disrepair as their relationship. Theirs is a claustrophobic world of nocturnal living and drug-induced hazes, punctuated by abortive band rehearsals, sex and paranoia-fuelled fights. Orbiting this dysfunctional pair are their gay best friends Jamie (Collin Clay Chace), a pipe-cleaner-thin barman with lazy charm and a Cheshire Cat smile, and Vin (Kai Brandon Ly), a surly rent-boy whose punter privileges emphatically do not include kissing or receiving flowers. As the four prepare for Liza’s birthday in a few days, tempers fray and secrets are revealed.

Make no mistake: this isn’t a hip look at East End lesbians. Set over four days, Break My Fall is a sad film, with no neat resolution, about two isolated people who are struggling to keep alive a relationship that’s passed its sell-by-date. However, it doesn’t drag its feet. Wichmann has a great ear for the absurdities of modern life and bone-dry one-liners abound. But what really gives the film its electric charge is the messy immediacy of every scene. From the constant beeping of car horns to the washed-out electronica of local bands, the soundtrack hums with the discordant noise of London life; meanwhile, a handheld camera snakes around the streets and spaces of Hackney, trying to keep up with people on bikes, tentatively lingering on sleeping bodies or moving queasily in and out of focus as characters vomit up the night before.

Of course, this cinéma vérité style would fall flat without convincing central performances to anchor it. Thankfully, newcomers Redstone and Anderson sustain our interest as a compellingly believable couple no longer able to tell where love ends and hate begins. Strikingly androgynous, dressed in baggy trousers and braces, Redstone moves from puppyish affection to white-faced rage as if laying open a wound. When a spat over a letter from Sally’s ex-girlfriend turns violent, it feels shockingly real; the confusion followed by fear that plays across Anderson’s face is palpable. But in the film’s quieter moments, sometimes with little more than a smile or a nuzzle, she and Redstone sell to us what makes it so hard for these two women to give each other up.

Not everything works as well. Chace and Brandon Ly are rather stiff  in their roles at times, while a gratingly sneering attitude towards most other characters beyond the main four does a disservice to an otherwise perceptive and assumption-free script. Also, in spite of the added complication of an unlikely rival for Sally’s affections, the story feels a bit stretched at 90 minutes. But it’s to Wichmann’s immense credit how little any of this really matters. Clear-sighted and heart-breakingly honest, Break My Fall is an original debut by a talented film-maker with a distinctive voice and much to say.

About My Fall is released in UK cinemas on 29 July. It is distributed by Peccadillo Pictures UK. You can read So So Gay‘s interview with director Kanchi Wichmann.

About My Fall is part of Peccadillo Pictures and TLA Releasing’s national LGBT film tour, POUT, for whichSo So Gay is an official gay media supporter. Full tour details are available here.