The Face of Love Has Some Surprising Twists
By Sandra Olmsted
Director Arie Posin’s The Face of Love daftly combines a love story with a psychological thriller, which results in a surprisingly compelling story designed to keep the audience guessing what will happen next.
The films opens with flashbacks to the idyllic marriage Nikki (Annette Bening) and Garrett (Ed Harris), but are Nikki’s memories true or idealized?
It has been five years since Garrett died, and Nikki hasn’t moved on with her life. She shares her grief with Roger (Robin Williams), her widowed neighbor who was Garrett’s best friend, but she won’t swim in the pool Garrett designed for her, go to the restaurants they went to, or spend time in the art museum they both loved.
Her daughter, Summer (Jess Weixler), a young woman struggling to find her own relationship, pushes her mother gently towards moving forward, and final Nikki ventures out and visits the art museum. Although overwhelm by memories of times she and Garrett enjoyed in the galleries, she finds some peace in sitting in the garden, and for a moment it seems as if she might begin to live again. Then she sees a man who is a dead ringer for Garrett. Her whole life than become a struggle between her obsession with getting to know this man and her knowledge it is wrong in so many ways to do seduce this man just because he looks like her dead and still beloved Garret.
When Nikki discusses seeing Garrett’s doppelgänger with Roger, he questions whether the resemblance is real or a figment of Nikki’s grief-ridden imagination. Despite being torn between the conflicting desires to get to know Garrett’s doppelgänger and the knowledge it is wrong, Nikki eventually does have a relationship with Tom (also Harris). A college professor and an artist, he proves to be a nice guy. She cajoles him into giving her private painting lessons, and he finds himself drawn to this beautiful, mysterious, and vulnerable woman.
Although Nikki keeps the secret of their relationship from both Summer and Roger, a delicious tension develops. Who will confront her about this decidedly creepy choice of a boyfriend? Doesn’t Tom realize there something strange when she looks at him with such love or when acquaintances “recognize” him?
Implausible though it seems, Nikki stalks and seduces Tom because she has not and cannot come to terms with her husband’s sudden, senseless death. She knows she needs to have closure to move on, and she knows she needs the man she loved and who loved her in order to have that closure. Caught in this conundrum of grief, she can’t help herself.
The allure of the film — never knowing what to expect next — creates a fascinating dramatic suspense. The tension of the dramatic suspense and the stellar performances make The Face of Love well worth seeing.
An IFC Films release, The Face of Love is rated PG-13 for brief drug references, discreet sociopathy and runs 92 minutes. The Face of Love is in theaters now
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