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Review: A haunted Catholic priest questions his past in the slow-moving ‘Fall’

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Questions of faith, defining right and wrong, and how memories blur are just a few themes that writer-director Terrance Odette explores with Bergmanesque starkness and gloom in the elusive, glacially paced “Fall.”

Veteran actor Michael Murphy (“Manhattan,” “An Unmarried Woman”) plays Father Sam Ryan, an aging Catholic priest living in a parish in Niagara Falls, Canada. Although kindly and equitable, there may be more to this man of God than meets the eye.

Did he sexually abuse a teen boy, Christopher, 40 years ago? A sudden letter from the now-dying Christopher begs the priest to clarify what may have happened decades earlier. This compels the haunted Sam to visit Ontario’s remote Sault Ste. Marie, where he served as a younger cleric, to pursue the truth.

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In a strained face-off with Christopher’s angry wife (Suzanne Clément), Sam denies any past improprieties. But his apparent inability to recall the depth of his “closeness” to Christopher defies credibility and provides a wobbly narrative base.

Maybe that’s why Odette so often defaults to Father Sam’s workaday encounters with several current parishioners and family members as a way to better mirror his emotional and spiritual states. But as a means to further illuminate the matter of abuse, these scenes, though well-played, don’t square much.

Murphy’s quietly precise performance ultimately can’t overcome the film’s chilly gravity and unsatisfying finale.

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‘Fall’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood

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