And the award for corniest movie title so far in 2014 goes to… The Face of Love. Unfortunately its cheesy title isn’t the only problem with this film. The Face of Love, directed and co-written by Arie Posin, is an exploration of loss and the emotions and psychological aspects of the grieving process. Basically the film revolves is about the inevitability of death. People get old and die, they get sick and die, or they die in accidents. Regardless of the circumstances everyone dies and leaves behind loved ones who must then find a way to cope and grieve our passing.
Despite featuring a first rate cast including Annette Bening, Ed Harris, and Robin Williams, nothing can save this self indulgent meandering flick. The movie opens with Nikki (Bening) sitting alone poolside, drinking wine, and recalling the happy times she spent with her late husband, Garrett (Harris), during the last few days before his untimely death. This opening sequence serves to establish Nikki’s deep feelings of sadness, loss, and loneliness.
The film then flashes forward ahead to five years later. Nikki is now seen spending time with her grown daughter and keeping busy with her job staging homes for sale. These scenes illustrate Nikki’s ongoing loneliness and self imposed social isolation. Her only steady companion is Roger (Williams), a neighbor and fellow widower. The platonic relationship that has developed between these two individuals seems to be rooted in the old saying “misery loves company.” They spend most of their time together sharing meals and discussing their lost loves.
The character of Roger is used to demonstrate the fact that there isn’t any one correct way to grieve. Each and every person copes with grief in their own unique way. During one particularly noteworthy scene Roger brings some food over to Nikki’s place and along with the meal is a set of whimsical dishes and assorted utensils that once belonged to his late wife. Roger explains that he gets a degree of comfort by continuing to use some of his late spouse’s things. He goes on to say that it’s his way of keeping her memory alive.
Nikki is taken aback by her friend’s attitude and explains that shortly after her husband’s death she purged the house of his belongings, boxing some of items up and giving them away to charity. Of course it’s interesting to note that Nikki still chose to continue living in the luxurious house her architect husband had specifically built for her.
The Face of Love is also a film about the necessity of moving on, or as in Nikki’s case, the failure to do so after losing someone you love. This aspect of the plot comes to the forefront after Nikki unwittingly spots a man who is a dead ringer for Garrett, her late husband. This unexpected turn of events occurs while she’s visiting an art museum that she and her late spouse used to enjoy going to. The theme of the film is called to mind when Nikki walks up to museum’s ticket counter and the clerk abruptly asks, “In pursuit of the past?” Although he is actually making reference to the title of the current exhibit, “In Pursuit of The Past” the clerk’s unusual inquiry takes on the double meaning and foreshadows Nikki’s pursuit of Garrett’s look alike and her attempts to relive the past.
After her brief encounter with Tom (also played by Harris) Nikki embarks on a journey to find out all she can about him and his life. In an absurd twist of fate she learns that Tom shares many of the same interests of in many of her deceased husband. She does some researches and learns that Tom is an art teacher who works at a local college. With this knowledge she ventures to his classroom in order to meet him and soon afterward persuades the stranger to give her private art lessons.
The entire notion of finding an exact look alike of her late spouse is an aspect of The Face of Love that seems to have been lifted from a work of science fiction. What are the chances of not only running into your dead husband’s doppelganger but also discovering that he lives in your city and has a similar personality as that of your lost loved one? Add to all of this the possibility that this look alike would fall in love with you?
The Face of Love could’ve been an interesting movie but the filmmakers missed the opportunity to elevate the central premise and develop it into a more compelling and dramatic storyline. Instead of simply being about a woman trying to relive the past the script could’ve evolved into an entertaining homage to the Alfred Hitchcock classic Vertigo. In fact during an early scene in the film when Nikki is shown “dressing” a house a vintage Vertigo movie poster viewers can seen hanging in the background. Yet another reference is made to Hitchcock’s thriller when later in the film Tom is depicted trying on the same type of suit that Nikki’s late husband was seen wearing in the initial flashback sequence. This scene calls to mind James Stewart’s makeover of Kim Novak in Vertigo when he tries to transform her into the exact likeness of the woman he witnessed fall to her death earlier on in the film.
At the end of The Face of Love viewers are left to ponder what it all meant. The movie features no satisfying resolution or meaningful explanation. The most important aspect of the film lies in its exploration of death and the plight of the loved ones left behind. The conclusion seems to be that the grief and emptiness they’re left with can never be filled,even by a look alike.