The Face of Love

Widowed Annette Bening finds love again but will her daughter accept her choice? Laurence Green reviews The Face of Love

Ed Harris & Annette Bening in The Face of Love

If you can imagine a cross between an Alfred Hitchcock thriller and a Douglas Sirk melodrama you will have some idea of the flavour of Arie Posin’s intriguing The Face of Love (released nationwide on December 12).

Nikki’s perfect life and marriage are shattered when her husband Garrett drowns while they are on a 30th anniversary vacation to Mexico. As time passes and Nikki adjusts to raising their teenage daughter on her own, and seems gradually to come to terms with her loss… or does she?

On a chance visit to an art gallery, she catches sight of Tom, a teacher, frustrated painter – and perfect double of her deceased husband – now dead for five years. Aware of the dangers of tempting fate but unable to stop herself Nikki pursues Tom, meets him, befriends him, and falls in love with him, never sharing the uncanny secret that drew them together. Divorcee Tom discovers in Nikki a friend, lover and muse as her devotion rekindles his passion for life and for his art.

For Nikki, this is perfect, or as close to perfect as possible to the love she shared with Garrett, save for the well-founded fears of what others in her life – her daughter Summer, her close friend and neighbour Roger – will say when they discover her secret. Inevitably it is a secret that can’t remain hidden for long.

This film has an interesting premise – how much can a person who is physically identical to a deceased loved one ever be like that individual or match their character? The script by director Arie Posin always hints at something deeper behind the fairly prosaic dialogue and initially the film is cluttered by an excess of flashbacks recalling the perfect marriage of this Los Angeles couple. Nevertheless, despite the rather murky photography the movie is absorbing, devoid of mawkishness and certainly rings true.

Annette Bening is genuinely moving as the grief-stricken, middle-aged widow Nikki, who decides to take a second chance on love, while Ed Harris plays both her adored late spouse Garrett, and his doppelganger Tom, with a degree of easy going charm. There is also a rather wasted supporting performance by Robin Williams – in one of his last roles – as Nikki’s confidante and would-be-lover Roger.

Finally I should add it is refreshing to see a romantic story involving a mature couple rather than the usual angst-ridden teenagers.

The Face of Love

In cinemas nationwide from 12 December

Last modified: November 24, 2014

Written by 3:04 pm Film