Some people never figure out the joke of it all, floundering in cycles of repetitious behaviour, touting job titles and disposable commodities as identity signifiers, but (un)fortunately for expectant father and police officer Marc (Hanno Koffler), the punch line comes at the least opportune moment.
While at the police training academy, he meets Kay (Max Riemelt), an irreverent and laid back pot smoker that helps Marc up his game in running—an area of weakness, being a smoker and all. Initially, Kay's lack of respect for authority and arbitrary rules—an oddity in the policing business—titillates, as does his tendency to intrude on personal space and lean in for a quick kiss while giving a super.
Free Fall plays off this repressed secret romance similar to Brokeback Mountain, with the self-hating Marc hiding his indiscretions from his increasingly suspicious wife, Bettina (Katharina Schüttler). But, whereas Ang Lee's restrained and heartbreaking drama gave each character time to reflect on their respective shame and disappointment, this German melodrama plays out with very little heart, having a serial preoccupation with action and consequence scenarios.
Every time Marc runs off to have implausibly situated rear-entry coitus with Kay—who barely raises an eyebrow when penetrated without lubricant—he comes home to a suspicious wife and has to make up a lie to keep her concerns at bay. The same set up exists in the workplace when Kay's less discreet approach to his sexuality makes him a target for peers, routinely being bashed by the presumably closeted Gregor (Shenja Lacher)—a man that transparently spends all of his time talking about female body parts.
Since the actual relationship at the core seems to be little more than hormonal urge, presented through a series of sex scenes with little emotional complexity, we're left mostly feeling bad for Bettina, whose journey isn't even relevant within the thematic makeup presented. The story here is that of Marc, who, as it seems, is learning how to "run" or be honest with himself, regardless of who gets hurt in the process.
Worse is that if interpreted critically, homosexuality presents as a vilifying force in Free Fall, destroying the sanctity and perfection of the nuclear family. In the opening moments, the heterosexual couple seems genuinely happy, chasing each other around their new house, ignorantly painting over wall paper and going to regular bowling outings with friends. Kay's introduction introduces chaos into this world and, though gay-bashing is frowned upon overall, the lack of a guiding framework for each character leaves cultural interpretation open.
Ignoring the potentially moral didactic, it's also not a particularly original story, nor is it overly compelling, but the acting is quite solid on all fronts, as is the cinematography, which at least keeps it from seeming like cheap, exploitive, clichéd gay cinema. (Kurhaus)