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The Face Of Love

Starring Annette Bening and Ed Harris

Annette Bening and Ed Harris bring a potent sense of conviction to director Arie Posin’s maudlin but strangely compelling psychological love story, The Face Of Love. The sort of achingly sincere romantic drama that would have fit snugly alongside the classic ‘women’s pictures’ of the 1930s and ’40s, it tips its hat at several points to the ultimate movie about back-from-the-dead romantic obsession, Vertigo. (A poster for the film is seen hanging in a character’s home, and the early shots of Nikki quietly stalking Tom through a museum gallery are nothing if not referential.) The film begins with a series of flashbacks recalling the perfect marriage of Nikki (Bening) and Garrett (Harris), whose happy union of 30 years ended tragically. Five years later, Nikki still hasn’t fully recovered from her loss or brought herself to begin dating again; she drifts through life with a pleasant demeanor but a despondent spirit. Nikki already has a habit of seeing her husband wherever she looks, but for once her eyes aren’t playing tricks on her when she heads on a whim to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and finds herself face-to-face with Garrett’s double (Harris again). Unavoidably fascinated, she keeps returning to the museum in the days that follow and, eventually sighting him again, follows him to the college where he teaches a painting class. Posin remains sympathetically attuned to his heroine’s every move as she asks the man, Tom, if she can enroll in his class, only to break down weeping before making a hasty exit. Bening registers each tremulous shift of emotion as Nikki moves from disbelief to determination to sudden embarrassment at the absurdity of her actions. But the director proves just as intent in his scrutiny of Tom, who finds himself immediately drawn to and moved by this lovely, fragile woman. Tom begins giving Nikki private painting lessons, but it doesn’t take long for them to progress beyond a student-teacher relationship, nursing their growing attraction over wine and art. But beyond the conventional satisfactions of watching two lonely, attractive, middle-aged souls fall in love, the story maintains a steady undercurrent of dramatic interest as Nikki, in hiding the fact of Tom’s resemblance to Garrett, can’t help but deceive him and possibly herself. Bening’s complex performance conveys not only Nikki’s almost physical hunger and need for Tom, but also the nuances of a character who seems at once aware of and quietly oblivious to what she’s doing. And yet, she’s calculating enough to hide Tom from those who knew her husband, and who would immediately recognize the perversity of the situation – not only her daughter, Summer, but also Nikki’s neighbour Roger (Robin Williams), who has long carried a torch for her. – Justin Chang, Variety

Official Trailer

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Directed by: 
Arie Posin
Running Time: 
Annette Bening, Ed Harris, Robin Williams, Jess Weixler
Screenplay by: 
Matthew McDuffie, Arie Posin

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