The Fall Before Paradise.
An Eden Prods. production. Produced by Steven Gillilan. Executive producer, Doctor G.
Directed, written by Steven Gillilan. Camera (Colorlab color), Thomas Schnaidt; editor; Nola Schiff; music, Quentin Chiappetta; art director, Adam Pollard; sound, Dwayne Doll; associate producer, Ann Gallow; assistant director, Kelly Mulligan; casting, Gallow. Reviewed on videocassette, Santa Monica, June 21, 2004. (In Dances With Films Festival.) Running time: 100 MIN.
Max Devere Jehl Maddie Sabrina Gennarino Mary Webber Jennifer Chudy Nate Tony Tsendeas Donna Shelley McPherson Ian Webber Nathan Taylor Casey Webber Sophie Radoci Psychiatrist Kimberly Fairbanks
A psychological thriller that, in the best tradition of the genre, leaves you guessing, "The Fall Before Paradise" is a taut and clever drama that suggests an auspicious future for scribe-helmer Steven Gillilan. Item could benefit from a specialized distributor able to exploit its intricate story structure. At the very least, pic should see extended life on video.
Gillilan's sophomore effort--his first was an adaptation of "Othello" called "Jealous God"--indicates his strong command of directorial technique and pacing. A former actor and ventriloquist, Gillilan deploys the latter's legerdemain to shift between two compelling storylines and at least a couple of possible endings.
Baltimore--set tale unspools partially in a psychiatric ward, where a patient named Max (Devere Jehl) is awakened by horrible night visions. Apparently adopting the perspective of a kidnapped boy (Nathan Taylor), Max flashes back on the abduction of the boy and his sister (Sophie Radoci) by blue-collar lowlifes Nate (a horrifically creepy Tony Tsendeas) and Donna (Shelley McPherson). Desperate to help the children, Max relays his psychic visions to an unsympathetic psychiatrist (Kimberly Fairbanks) and a technophobic patient named Maddie (Sabrina Gennarino). Both are less than helpful, but Maddie's rabid lust for Max may prompt her support.
Alternating between scenes of the abducted children and Max's seemingly futile efforts to communicate his visions, Gillilan renders both stories compelling. And when Narc's abuse goes too far with the boy, Max finds he's racing the clock to save the girl from further harm.
Though his shrink prescribes the anti-psychotic drug Haldol, Max makes a getaway and tries to track down the children. But in a chilling coda, Gillilan suggests Max may have simply dreamt the escape.
"The Fall Before Paradise" could use some editing of the lengthy psych ward scenes that find Maddie railing ad nauseum against the phone company, and there's a brutality to the kidnapping sequences that feels unnecessary, though actual onscreen violence is minimal. Tech credits otherwise are universally solid.
Gillilan explains in his director's statement that he wanted to probe the nature of insanity by juxtaposing the very. obvious mental imbalance of the child abductors with the relative mental health of Max and Maddie. He may raise more questions than he answers, but he has certainly spun a good yarn.