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13th April 2022

MANIFF 2022: The Falconer

MANIFF 2022: Based on a true story, The Falconer is a cinematic dream but loses audiences due to its meandering plot and irritating protagonists
MANIFF 2022: The Falconer

Based on a true story, The Falconer is a meandering coming of age story centring on class and gender but struggles to fully develop its many narrative points.

Set in Oman the story follows two teenagers Tariq and Cai, who work at a local zoo. However, when Tariq’s sister runs away from an abusive arranged marriage, the two boys turn to crime, selling the smaller animals in the zoo, to make enough money to pay off the violent husband. All the while, Cai attempts to train a stolen falcon, at first for his own pleasure, before the boys realise that this is the zoo’s most valuable asset. Conflict between the two raises its ugly head when Cai’s privileged ex-pat background means his personal relationship with the bird becomes his central focus, whilst Tariq only sees the falcon as an economic opportunity to save his family.

Most striking is the film’s gorgeous cinematography. Evoking shades of Nomadland the sprawling desert hills, and dusky blue sunsets create a hazy and slow-paced atmosphere in which to explore class and gender relations in such a foreign culture.

However, the comparisons to Nomadland end there. Poor pacing and tonal issues are but two reasons why this feels like a disjointed and mismatched watch. Extended periods of hazy, slow-paced lulls are quickly offset with scenes of manic energy which fail to create a cohesive atmosphere for the film.

Whilst the central relationship between bird and humans certainly offers a creative lens to look at class, irritating rather than sympathetic characters render the potential for interesting social commentaries…

Similarly, the film doesn’t seem to know what its main subject matter is. Is this a family drama or coming of age film? The sad descent of two young men into crime or a touching melodrama with an uplifting end? Whilst films can certainly include one or two of these thematic concerns within the same picture, The Falconer appears to oscillate inconsistently between these and never quite settles on a single narrative focus.


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