For last month’s Shorts Blogathon hosted by Movies Silently, the wonderful blog Silver Screenings covered the 1912 drama Falling Leaves, describing it as follows: “There is a film that makes us a little weepy every time we watch it. Every. single. time. Get this: The film is not even 12 minutes long – and it’s over 100 years old!”
Immediately after reading those few sentences, I knew that I needed to watch Falling Leaves, which I’d never heard of prior to the blogathon.
The film tells the story of a young woman named Winifred (Marian Swayne) who is on her deathbed, inflicted with consumption. Her doctor alerts her family that she doesn’t have much time left, telling them that she’ll be dead by the time the last leaf falls from the tree that autumn.
Rather than spinning a tragic tale, Falling Leaves tells one of determination and hope. Winifred’s devoted younger sister Trixie (Magda Foy) decides to take matters into her own hands to ease the family’s heartache. Taking the doctor’s warning literally, she becomes determined to stop the leaves from falling, so Winifred will not die.
Falling Leaves is definitely a film that tugs at the heartstrings, particularly for those of us who have close bonds with our siblings. Trixie will do whatever she can to help save her sister’s life, and though the viewer knows that her naive solution is unlikely to work, it’s very touching to see how much she cares for her sister.
Director Alice Guy Blaché, a pioneering female director from France, does a wonderful job at sensitively portraying what was, at the time, a very serious issue. The story told here is simple, but very effective and sweet.