Directed by Byrum Geisler Starring Chase Conner, Ethan Sharrett, Carol Marie Rinn Indie Film Review by Phil Slatter
Like many great works of literature, Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice has been adapted numerous times since the invention of the moving image. From multiple T.V. versions to extreme fayre like Burr Steer’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies via Gurindha Chadha’s Bollywood inspired Bride and Prejudice to more traditional adaptations in the guise of Joe Wright’s 2005 feature film and contemporary romantic offerings like Bridget Jones’s Diary - the list, while not endless, is extensive.
Is there any call for a further adaptation? And what more can be done with such a well-known and oft interpreted text?
These are thought’s one has when approaching Byrum Geisler’s thinly veiled update of the novel with the key difference (aside from the modern day setting) being that the central love story occurs between two men in Before the Fall.
In rural Virginia, we meet Lee Darcy (Chase Conner), a reclusive, troubled alcoholic who soon lands himself in trouble with the law following an altercation with his girlfriend Cathy (Carol Marie Rinn). A chance meeting at the courthouse with lawyer Ben Bennett (Ethan Sharrett) creates discord between the two with the thematic notions of the source novels title being key. As events unfold though, the two men have to slowly overcome to decipher what it is they truly desire.
On the surface it may seem as though simply changing a key character from a woman to a man is little more than a gimmick; an idea born out of the thought ‘what hasn’t been done with this before?’ but there is much more to the film than that. Sexuality replaces feminism as a key theme and in today’s society where homophobia is still prevalent, it means events fit well into the modern day setting. Pride cometh and can be a flaw to admitting true feelings, prejudice is still around every corner. The script tackles these issues head on at times with Cathy’s view of homosexuals coming across as unintentional but institutionalised, at least until a scene towards the end where she descends into a one-dimensional bigot of sorts.
The key to the film’s success though is undeniably the cast. Conner brings a great sense of ambiguity to Lee Darcy, a character whose quiet demeanour and unhappiness can be linked to one of many things with questions around his sexuality explored with subtlety and never discussed, meaning the ending remains unpredictable in some respects.
Before the Fall is admittedly slow-burning and some supporting characters do border on caricature, yet the cinematography makes magnificent use of the setting while the music is memorable and noticeable but not to the point where it becomes invasive.
It all wraps up into an unexpectedly smart take on Austen’s classic, a sumptuous and relevant film, well performed and structured with relevant commentary in today’s society.