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film review

Michael Murphy as Father Sam, in Fall.Melissa Connors

Michael Murphy, a great American character actor best-known for his work in the films of Robert Altman, Woody Allen and others, takes on the role of an aging priest, Father Sam, living in a Niagara Falls parish.

His comfortable routine is disrupted when he receives a letter from Christopher, a dying man asking for clarity about a possible sexual incident that happened years before. This is the promising premise of Fall, from Canadian writer-director Terrance Odette (Saint Monica, Sleeping Dogs) but the dramatic follow-through is solemn to the point of dullness.

The pace is glacial, with a surfeit of wintry nature shots, the clumsiest of which sees Father Sam reading the fateful letter while Niagara Falls roars behind him, before taking a drive to Northern Ontario to confront his past.

Some respite from the picturesque bleakness comes from a estimable cast of secondary characters – Katie Boland as a troubled bride-to-be, Cas Anvar as a gay man struggling with grief, a fiery Suzanne Clément as Christopher's embittered partner, Joel Bisonnette as a single dad, Wendy Crewson as Sam's amiable sister – serve to confirm or challenge Father Sam's role as a spiritual counsellor. All in all, it's many prayers short of a revelation.