The Face of Love
dir Arie Posin
scr Matthew McDuffie, Arie Posin
prd Bonnie Curtis, Julie Lynn
with Annette Bening, Ed Harris, Robin Williams, Jess Weixler, Amy Brenneman, Linda Park, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Horacio Cerutti, Clyde Kusatsu, Eli Vargas, Miguel Perez
release US 7.Mar.14, UK 12.Dec.14
13/US 1h32
The Face of Love
Hello again: Harris and Bening

williams weixler brenneman
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The Face of Love An inverted riff on Vertigo (which gets an obvious namecheck), this film has a lot of potential as a second-chance romance, but gets bogged down in its contrived collection of plot points and twisty weirdness. The actors are solid, as expected, just about holding the interest even as things get increasingly deranged.

After 30 years together, Nikki (Bening) struggles to cope when her husband Garret (Harris) dies during a vacation in Mexico. Five years later when her daughter Summer (Weixler) goes off to university, she finds her days flooded with memories, only livened up by visits from the smiley widower (Williams) across the street. Then she spots a man who looks uncannily like Garret and becomes obsessed with finding out who he is. She knows she's being crazy, but she follows Tom (also Harris) to the college where he teaches art, asking him for private lessons.

Director-cowriter Posin builds a foreboding tone as dark memories of Nikki's happy 30 years with Garret shift into a doppelganger mystery-romance. Obviously, things are going to get very strange when anyone who knew Garret meets Tom. So as the script dances around this elephant in the room, it begins to feel somewhat contrived. Clearly the only way forward here is pure openness and honesty, but Nikki stupidly tries to hide Tom without telling him what's up, and it's irritating to watch the situation spiral out of hand.

Bening and Harris are solid at the centre of the film, creating an uneasy chemistry that's intriguing and involving. Despite the limitations of the script, their romance has an unexpected earthiness to it that catches the imagination because they feel it in very different ways. But director Posin seems more interested in his melodramatic and artistic flourishes than in making the story believable. So every twist and turn in the plot feels rather queasy.

While it's great to see a love story between two middle-aged people, it's more than a little frustrating to have it undermined by such a big gimmick, pointlessly trying to crank up a vague sense of Hitchcockian tension. The fragmented editing captures Nikki's unsettled sense of reality, but continual awkward pauses and incomplete moments leave the movie feeling badly underpowered. Which only makes the audience wonder why the filmmakers bothered to tell the story.

cert 12 themes 9.Dec.14

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