This film focuses on the interaction between 5-year-old Alexandria and Roy, a Hollywood stuntman in the early days of film.  The two are residents of a rehabilitation hospital, and both are recovering from falls they’ve taken: he’s paralyzed from the waist down as a result of a failed stunt; she’s broken her humerus as the result of a fall she’s taken in an orange orchard.  (A child in a migrant family, she’s been tasked, at 5 years of age—presumably out of economic necessity—with climbing ladders to pick oranges.)  Having accidentally intercepted an affectionate note—Alexandria’s child-missive—meant for the kindly but preoccupied nurse Evelyn, paralyzed Roy befriends the girl and quickly wins her over by telling her the wondrous tale of a masked bandit and his companions, all of whom have been betrayed by the evil emperor Odious, and all of whom are united in their quest for vengeance against the ruler.  While Roy narrates the story, we see it take place through Alexandria’s eyes, and the characters she envisions are drawn from people in her life.  The role of the heroic masked bandit she assigns to Roy himself, blended to a poignant degree with her deceased father.  Alexandria sometimes interrupts and asks questions about or challenges the story’s development, whereupon Roy makes adjustments: it’s clear that the story is a co-constructed project.  Roy has, however, become increasingly despondent over his paralyzed condition and over the fact that his fiancée has broken off the engagement as a result of Roy’s condition.  As time goes on, Roy uses his unfolding story as a means of manipulating Alexandria to retrieve morphine from the hospital dispensary.  He tries and fails to commit suicide with the pills that Alexandria supplies.  In the process, he winds up bringing about a severe injury to the child.  Filled with remorse and guilt, Roy alters his story such that it can be a source of separation between him and the girl: it becomes cruel and violent, and suggests that the hero is a weak, inglorious imposter who deserves to die.  The anguished Alexandria protests, demanding that Roy change the story.  Roy refuses, insisting that “It’s my story.”  But Alexandria retorts, “It’s mine, too.”  And Roy relents.  The masked bandit of the story is redeemed, and Roy himself is as well.  The film closes first with Roy, Alexandria, the hospital patients and staff watching the film in which Roy’s acting had led to his accident.  As the scene approaches the point where the accident had occurred, Roy feels understandable anxiety; but the film has of course been edited.  Roy is relieved, but turns to Alexandria, in the hopes that she is not terrified.  He finds her beaming.  Then the film we are watching, The Fall, shifts to a rapid series of black-and-white footage of stunts—the effect is reminiscent of the love scenes gathered at the end of Cinema Paradiso—narrated by the marveling Alexandria.  Each clip features a person in imminent, catastrophic danger—who is then impossibly rescued at the last second by fortunate chance.  As Alexandria blows us kisses through a character who is falling backward, we are left in a state of bewildered gratitude over this strange gift of stories we human beings offer each other—stories that assure us over and over again how, confronted with the calamities we see no way of escaping, we are nonetheless saved. 


The first scene, shot in slow-motion black-and-white, depicts the aftermath of a fall of horse and rider from a bridge: urgent, helpless movements of people, close-ups of witnesses screaming silently—all to the accompaniment of the ominous, insistent cadence of the second movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.  When the scene changes, we’re placed in our familiar, comforting world of color, in sunny Southern California, though the first frames here feature the fall of palm frond clipped by a laborer, and we proceed into the children’s ward of a Catholic rehabilitation hospital.  We are inclined to wonder of the ways that the pleasantness might be undermined.  Still, crucifixes and crosses adorn the walls of every room, and the environment appears to be one of comfort and healing.  Our sense of this space as one of solace is never really proven ironic or erroneous; what we experience instead is a deepened appreciation for the dynamics, nature, and complexity of the nurturance.  The co-construction of stories by fellow sufferers is key to this.   The film direction is superb in taking viewers into this shared construction: Roy narrates the story, but the depiction of events in that story—the images we viewers see—is from Alexandria’s perspective.  What we witness appears, at first, to be a child’s fantasy.  But the fantasy turns nightmarish and violent, because narrator Roy is, as it turns out, emotionally distraught and psychologically troubled.  The story of the troubled adult is, indeed, a manipulative performance of emotional abuse—which is nonetheless ultimately redeemed by the child’s participation in the story.

Primary Source





Googly Films

Running Time (in minutes)


Based on

A screenplay by Dan Gilroy