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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's fitting that I saw this film and reviewed it today, as,
coincidentally, it's the star's birthday todayso a happy birthday to
While I really loved this film, it's one that is not for everyone. In addition, it was in and out of theaters so quickly that I really doubt that many folks got to see this one. It's a shame, as I really, really admire this film and more folks should see it.
The reason I say that the film is not for everyone isn't because it's badit's marvelous. However, if you are a widow or widower, it might be a bit tough watching the film. Additionally, if you simply refuse to watch a sad film or are already depressed, this one isn't for you. It doesn't come with the usual happy Hollywood endingsomething I appreciate but which will no doubt disappoint some viewers.
Bening plays Nikkia woman who is still grieving over the death of her beloved husband five years earlier. She seems stuck and her life isn't especially fulfilling. However, when she one day happens to see a man in a gallery who looks exactly like her late husband (Ed Harris), she becomes obsessed. She returns to the gallery again and again and again hoping to see the guy. Eventually, he does return and she stalks him and discovers that he's a teacher at a local college. She then shows up at him art class and proceeds to make a fool of herself. However, he's intrigued and when they see each other again, they begin talking and a romance develops. However, Nikki is an emotionally disturbed woman. No, she isn't crazybut she is unable and simply not ready to have a healthy relationship with Tom. Instead of explaining to him that he is a double for the dead man, Nikki tells him nothing. In fact, she goes so far as to hide him from her friends and family because she wants nothing to stop her from symbolically reclaiming her dead husband in the form of Tom. Heck, at times, she even calls him by her dead husband's name!
If Hollywood types had done the film, it clearly would have ended up very differently. This is NOT a film where everything is wrapped up neatly or makes the viewer feel thrilled for the lovers. No. Instead it's a film about being stuckand how, ultimately, that can really keep you from living your life to the fullest. It's a wonderful lesson for us allbut it's also a very painful lesson. Be sure to have some Kleenex handy and don't be surprised if the film leaves you emotionally drained. However, it's a GOOD sort of feeling and you can't help but admire the folks who made the filmeven if it's not a huge money-maker. As for the actors, Bening and Harris are simply greatvery believable and easy to connect with in the film. I also appreciate how middle aged actresses and actors star in this one. Too often filmmakers seem to present the world as only for the young. Additionally, I was surprised at Robin Williams in this one. His role was surprisingly small and unlike what you'd normally expect to see from himand I also appreciate that. Finally, the director and co-writer Ari Posin deserves so much of the credit for this film. Despite very little experience in the industry (or perhaps because of it), he manages to create a wonderful story without the usual clichés. Draining but wonderful. Well worth seeing. And, if you do see it, pay close attention to the musicit's really, really fitting and creates a strongly evocative mood.
Saw the US premiere of this movie at the Mill Valley Film Festival. The director, Arie Posen, described the inspiration for this film. His mother thought that she saw her late husband walking across the street one day. Of course, it could not have been him, but it was a powerful experience for her. I think many of us have this fantasy of being with a loved one again. It explored the fine line between extreme grief and mental illness. The movie is very well cast, with Annette Bening and Ed Harris delivering strong and believable performances - and chemistry! There were many suspenseful moments where the audience gasped - because we knew what was going on, but the other characters in the movie did not. Throughout the entire movie I was wondering how this could possibly end, but the film does manage to find a conclusion - it does not leave the viewer to write the ending, like so many movies these days.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is my reaction to the film. There will be spoilers so read this
after you've seen the film. It's not to be read by anyone wondering
whether or not to go see the film because it will ruin the ending for
you and even the middle. Nikki follows Tom because she is struck by how
much he looks like her late husband. The likeness is exact, actually.
What happens is that she gradually gets involved with Tom but doesn't
tell him why she's so smitten. He basks in her love gaze and returns
the affection. I had a lot of trouble watching her conceal the true
reason for her attraction to him. It was dishonest and set a poor
precedent for any future the relationship might have. Since his looks
are exactly like her husband's, he has a right to know this so he can
decide if her feelings for him can ever change and be about him, Tom --
not him the Garrett look-alike (if that was his name). So my stomach
churned more with each dishonest date they had and with each evasive
act she committed with her neighbor and daughter. Why? My goal was for
her to find another relationship and she was ruining it. When he did
discover the truth he was going to be very angry and never trust her.
She had to be the one to tell him how things really were. But she
didn't. She didn't because, I figured out, she didn't want another
relationship. She wasn't over the old one. In fact, she wanted to keep
on living the old one. She wanted to use Tom to fantasize that the old
one wasn't over. Perhaps it never needed to end after all. Logic would
have told her she couldn't play that game forever but she was quite
drastically short on logic. One example of this was when her daughter
showed up while Tom was upstairs in the bedroom. To prevent a scene she
should have said, "Daughter, this new man looks exactly like Garrett.
That's weird but you should get ready for it because he's coming down.
It's partly why I am attracted to him." Instead she tells her daughter
stuff that isn't useful because there's no groundwork. For, "Please
understand, I really need him," to work you have to first know what the
odd part is (that he looks like Dad) and Nikki leaves that out. So the
So it's not a movie about a woman getting on with her life. It's a movie about a woman who found a way to stay stuck and not get on with her life. I found that very hard to watch. And the ending didn't make it any better. In fact I wanted to see a couple of other paintings by Tom, not just the one of her in the pool. Was that all he did of her? He had a year after their breakup.
I don't know what to make of the film. I do know I lived part of my life that way -- not getting on with my life but in my case it was my unhappy childhood I couldn't or wouldn't get over. And I was mostly powerless even with therapy, to move on. It is a sad kind of craziness. It's a waste of a life to be stuck but I don't know that everyone has the same chance of changing that . . . or what happens that allows them to move on. For me it was a change of therapists and approaching old age. I don't know if Nikki ever did move on. We don't get to see that part. As we watch her taking in that painting at the art show we see her with a chance to get to know Tom for himself and of course, it's too late. So now she has another loss to deal with.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When does deep, abiding love tip over into unhealthy, tragic obsession?
The answer, apparently, is all the time, in oddly affecting romantic
drama The Face Of Love. Buoyed by a strong cast, this tale of a woman
falling for her dead husband's doppelganger manages to gloss over some
of its more troubling implications for quite a while. But, ultimately,
writer-director Arie Posin fails to disguise the fact that an
interesting premise does not a great film make.
Nikki (Annette Bening) is devastated by the sudden death of her beloved husband Garret (Ed Harris). Without him, she drifts through a haze of loss and grief, unable to walk through her house or visit the museum without being reminded of him. After five years as a widow, she meets, quite by chance, Tom (also played by Harris), a man who's the spitting image of her deceased husband. She tracks him down at a liberal arts college where he teaches, and the two strike up a romance: one that never quite manages to free itself from the troubling spectre of Nikki's still-burning love for Garret.
Posin reportedly sat down to co-write his script after his mother gave him an idea for the story: she had spotted someone in the crowd who looked eerily like her dearly departed husband. There's certainly a host of interesting ideas revolving around this premise. When does love turn into obsession? When does it keep the ones left alive from moving on? To what lengths can love drive a person? Indeed, The Face Of Love occasionally hits upon moments of quite startling insight, particularly when Nikki walks through her beautiful, empty house like someone already dead.
But the film also gets too caught up in its own premise. The relationship between Nikki and Tom unfolds in a realistic but also deeply creepy way: she frequently refers to him as Garret, and clearly slips into the delusion that her husband is alive far more frequently than she reminds herself that she's with an entirely different man with his own identity and feelings. That's not the bad part; in fact, it's quite intriguing and tragic in its unsettling fashion.
What works less well is the way in which it all ends. The inevitable confrontation between Nikki and Tom is much delayed - she hides a family photograph with Garret, and for some reason he googles Nikki but never thinks to google Garret - and, when it finally takes place, is deeply anti-climactic and a bit silly. Instead of dealing with the very real ramifications of Nikki's actions (she takes Tom to the scene of Garret's demise to "make new memories!"), the film chooses to skip a year ahead, picking up the story in a ham-fisted way that gives no one any real emotional closure - not Tom, not Nikki, and certainly not the audience.
What joy there is to be had in this film comes from its astounding and very committed cast. Bening expresses more hope and despair in her face and eyes than the script sometimes allows her; she's the reason Nikki comes off as sympathetic and heartbroken rather than crazed and callous. Harris' part is pretty thankless, but he imbues Tom with a sad hopefulness: the way he proclaims that his heart soars because of the way Nikki looks at him will likely break yours. (Robin Williams, by the way, pops up as a neighbour who's long held a torch for Nikki, but isn't given very much to do.)
In some moments, The Face Of Love makes a very strong case for its existence. Within Nikki's heartbreak, one can find shades of dangerous obsession and tragic delusion. Bening alone maps Nikki's desolation in a wonderfully sensitive way. But, because of the deeply strange manner in which the film chooses to resolve Nikki's relationship with Tom, it all rings too hollow in the end. This is not, as it turns out, The Face Of Love, but more The Farce of it.
"Am I a bad person?" Nikki (Benning) is madly in love with her husband. While they are on vacation he unexpectedly and suddenly passes away. A year later she is still trying to get over him. When she goes to a museum she spots Tom (Harris), a man who looks exactly like her dead husband. This begins a complicated romantic relationship. First thing I have to say about this is that the acting is great and the movie is very emotional. The emotion that is invokes though is a mix between sadness and anger. Nikki makes you feel sorry for her and makes you despise her at the same time. You know why she is doing what she is doing but you can't help but see and feel how selfish she is being. The movie is a little slow moving but the anticipation of her coming clean is what keeps you watching. She is a woman who is hard to root for but at the same time you can't really root against her. That is the sign a a beautifully written movie. Overall, a slow moving movie that keeps the anticipation high which keeps you watching. I give this a B-.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Walking into the movie, I had no idea what to expect. I felt like
seeing a movie for no particular reason that night and am quite a fan
of Ed Harris. Also, the addition of Robin Williams was a nice addition
as he did nothing to harm to movie, only added cheer to it.
The movie had a nice storyline, and a rather unpredictable one. The ending was nothing I would've expected. An expected storyline would have the two getting married and the daughter accepting the father. However, the twisted ending added more emotion to the movie.
I recommend to watch the movie. It is shorter than most movies (90 minutes) and keeps interest throughout the movie. The cast does a convincing job and Ed Harris has the challenge of portraying two different character which he does very well.
It's a movie that also requires a bit of focus as well, which is nice. Rather than watching a pointless romantic movie, "The Face of Love" allows you to insert yourself into the movie, form your own opinion and at the end, walk out possibly with a tear, but ultimately a smile.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched this movie last week and am still at a loss how to describe this movie. In good sense, of course. To be frank, I actually lived with the actors in the movie for its entire time. It is such a real and beautiful movie with great acting performances by Annette Benning (Nikki) and Ed Harris (Tom). The initial five minutes or so shows Nikki's reminiscences of the times she spent with her late husband and the deep connection they had to their house where she lives now, all alone - a clever paradigm to show how director Posin masters the art! Then one day she happens to see this strange man (Tom) at the museum she used to roam with her late husband. He is exactly the double of her late husband, shocked, she tries to find out who he is, and finally finds the man is an arts Tutor at a nearby university. She somehow stages an apparently accidental encounter in his classroom, makes a connection, start dating and the rest is just a love affair between a woman and a man. But how Posin tells us the story is very melancholic and truly poetic. Entire movie is filled with close-ups, cleverly reflecting the human emotions in different situations. Truly excellent performances by both Annette and Ed! Annette is a great actress anyway but I saw the best performance of Ed Harris in this movie. I felt some gaps in the story line, particularly as to why Nikki thinks she can always cover up why she loves Tom so dearly. You may wonder why she didn't get honest, if she really wanted Tom to be her lover. But her excellent acting performance overshadows any such flaw. I am so sad to see the movie did hopeless at the Box-office although this is a low budget movie. I only hope people will begin to appreciate rare gems like this movie if they want to enjoy a true cinematic experience.
The Face of Love (2013)
There is a terrific movie in here somewhere, but it misses on several subtle points here and there and ends up being good, totally watchable, and a nice view on Ed Harris (as Tom) and Annette Bening (as Nikki), the leading actors.
At its best, the movie dug into the nature of mourning and loss, and in love. The two main actors were struggling with losses, each, and ran into each other and some confused sparks flew. But the hook to the movie, and the problem really, is a quirk. Nikki sees Tom and he looks exactly like her dead husband (Garrett). So she has a weird attachment to him, and leads him on (a little like Vertigo in the second half). It's a fun idea, but it doesn't quite fly.
So really the movie follows this couple in their 50s falling in love. With the constant worry that the woman's psychosis will screw things up. You'll have to see. Warm, with perturbations.
Oh, and Robins Williams has one of his last roles here. He's nice and sympathetic, and maybe not quite enough for the role, which is the third leg to the whole thing in theory.
Along with 'The Angriest Man In Brooklin' this is an example of a film
that Robin Williams made late in his life that was released straight to
DVD (in the UK at least).
I think it is one that is well worth seeking out though because although Robin only plays a supporting role, he says so much through his lovely characterisation and facial expressions that you really believe in his character of Roger.
Annette Benning and Ed Harris are the ones that really carry the film though and although the ending is perhaps a little rushed, the rest of the film is an engaging and interesting love story.
So overall although the cover of the DVD (I can only vouch for the UK edition) will lead you to believe that Robin Williams is in it a lot more than he is, the film itself is well worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As I said when it came to Enough Said, there is really this strange
lack of middle aged, or beyond, romance films. At least when it comes
to stuff which comes across my recommendations anyway. So it makes
finding a film like this so beautiful for while there isn't the usual
over the top romantic gestures, it does somehow make you fall in love
with the idea of being with someone for years. Though it also holds
that reminder that your loved one can be taken from you at any minute
and truly the two sides it presents to love makes you want to smile and
Characters & Story
For most of Nikki's (Annette Bening) life she has been married to Garrett (Ed Harris). They have a daughter together, Summer (Jess Weixler), would yearly go to Mexico and seemed to have a happy life. But on their last trip together tragedy strikes. Leaving Nikki seemingly with just the company of Roger (Robin Williams), a fellow widow, for 5 years. That is until Tom (Ed Harris) magically appears and with his appearances you are introduced to Nikki's 2nd chance with Garrett. Though you aren't really sure if Tom truly looks like Garrett, or if Nikki's grief is playing tricks on her.
Let me first start by saying that, for once, I enjoyed Robin Williams performance in something. If just because not only is he not the lead, despite top billing, but it seems he toned down his usual manic persona to actual play a human being. That aside, it really is the love story between Bening and Harris which keeps you attentive. For one, they have good chemistry and really present the idea of growing old with someone to be such an ideal thing. Yet, as noted in the intro, watching Bening deal with the death of her husband really just creates this feeling where, even if you're not in a relationship, nor around Bening's age, you easily can feel what she is going through. Because with the movie starting you off caught up in the idea of growing old with someone, it is such a punch in the gut to imagine that special someone dying before you and you being left with these memories you can never replicate. Never mind finding someone new who could live up to your expectations, or even surpass them.
Which makes the transition of Harris from Garrett to Tom so interest for you aren't sure if he is real. After all, even after five years, you can tell Nikki isn't fully over Garrett's death. With him dying she lost her love of swimming, art, and though she has Roger's company, romance with him she sort of makes seem like a sad rebound she wants to avoid. So when Harris is reintroduce as Tom, it brings on this idea, at least for me, that maybe she is imagining things. First you wonder if he is real since he barely interacts with anyone, then you question if Nikki is just picturing Garrett's face on a man who may not look like him at all, but by the end of the movie you begin to question if this is even reality? For as Nikki starts to unravel, I honestly wondered if maybe we were just witnessing the delusions of a woman lost in her own head.
Not to spoil things fully, but I really wish when it came to Harris, as Tom, that Summer wasn't the sole person who seemed to have the opportunity to really react to seeing him. I would have loved to see Roger react to him as well. Plus, I honestly felt like I wanted to see what happened between the two time jumps. The first one is 5 years after Garrett dies and I would have liked to see Nikki's struggle in adjusting to living without Garrett more. For while the film does use flashbacks to illustrate their relationship, I think a few extra minutes to show what happened during that 5 year gap could have been nice. Then the 2nd one is post meeting Tom which could have also used a nice montage, even if during the credits.
Lastly, a part of me really thought it was odd Nikki didn't look into whether Garrett had a missing twin or something. I get she was just happy to find someone who looked like her husband, but you'd think she would have been curious about finding this exact replica.
Overall: Worth Seeing
Truly I haven't seen a romance film in a long time which dealt with not just a loved one dying, but also a strong focus on trying to move on. And I have to say the chemistry between Bening and Harris really makes me hope they join each other for another romance film. Hell, I may even go for Williams and Bening being love interest since, I must admit, I kind of wanted to see their relationship go somewhere. Overall though, The Face of Love really is an entertaining film which contains all the cuteness of young love, yet the unfortunate reality of when you realize love and romance isn't going to last forever, but just the next couple of years or decade.
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