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Fallen Fruit Film Review: Awkward, but Accurate

Alex holds a video camera in between clouds and looks at the camera in the film Fallen Fruit

Chris Molina’s first feature film, Fallen Fruit, plays on the frustrating confusion of young adulthood with softness and some insecurity.

I am not sure what’s more difficult: realizing a debut feature film, or making it through your early twenties unscathed. Fallen Fruit, by writer-director Chris Molina, had me asking myself this very question after the end credits of his tender coming-of-age vignette rolled.

Fallen Fruit documents the journey of Alex (Ramiro Batista) after he has been forced to move back to his childhood home in Miami, Florida, with a lot of emotional baggage and fresh off of a breakup with someone he thought was the love of his life. Alex documents it in his own way with his father’s old camera, videotaping the days away while struggling to figure out how to navigate them.

“I didn’t plan on life being this messy.”

Molina’s debut feature is about as close as you can get to an accurate depiction of being 23 in today’s restless world: the aggravating disorientation of not knowing what to do, what to say, or where to go next in a life that feels like it never gives you a break. The film encapsulates the grounded, down-to-earth reality of making amends with the city that built you up, broke you down, and made you who you are. It exposes the inherent need to cling to someone to feel loved and supported when you haven’t even learned how to do that yourself. However, much like the honest portrait of Alex’s fragility and weakness, the film as a medium meant to explore those issues has its fair share of inconsistencies, too.

Although thematically different and less polished, Fallen Fruit strikes some faint stylistic resemblances to Charlotte Wells’ Aftersun (2022), a masterfully poignant father-daughter story told through minimalist cinematography and a series of recorded summer memories. To be more specific, Molina gives the impression of being loosely inspired by the aestheticism of Wells’ work, from the vintage videotapes down to the framing and composition. In that sense, visually, Molina’s film manages to please the eye with very little. It’s something I have to keep coming back to when the rest of the picture doesn’t quite work.

Two guys sit in the booth of a car in the film Fallen Fruit
Fallen Fruit (Courtesy of Fallen Fruit)

Finding the film’s intended tone feels like navigating your way through patches of fog. It’s not always easy to make out what was executed with an intentional awkwardness that helps drive the point of the story home and what is a result of the amateurish awkwardness of the final cut. As much as every character’s decisions feel genuine given their circumstances, the way their interactions unfold just feels plainly unnatural. The delivery of the dialogue often comes out off, with pauses at odd places that halt the typical flow of conversation. The issue could stem from a clunky edit, a clunky performance, or both.

Without the strong support of the dialogue, the pacing does not offer the gradual build-up needed for the emotional beats of Alex’s journey to land their blows. They all feel like one note, managing to break through only slightly towards the third act. Alex’s personal epiphanies, inner turmoils, and feelings of loneliness could have more of their intended impact if we aren’t told directly in every scene how much he’s bothered by them and how torturous it is for him to be in Miami. A lack of subtle and nuanced evolution in Alex’s character is what keeps Fallen Fruit from succeeding.

The coming-of-age story, written and directed by Chris Molina, explores the hurricane of feelings that is being 23 years old during an actually approaching Miami hurricane. The end product turns out to be a wandering exploration of identity, just as much for the film’s protagonist, Alex, as it is for the filmmaker himself, evidently still learning the ways of the craft and the ways of his artistic voice.

Fallen Fruit premiered at the Miami Film Festival on Friday, April 5, 2024.

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