Saturday movie review: The Face of Love

I watch so many movies that I go through periods where I have a tough time finding a good one to review that I've not already seen. So I scan and search and sample. And sometimes I stumble upon an enjoyable flick I'd previously overlooked.

That's the case with THE FACE OF LOVE. I actually started—and stopped—four other films this week, stinkers one and all. This fifth one, this little gem some of you may have already seen, saved this week's Saturday movie review.

the face of love movie

THE FACE OF LOVE, a romantic drama filmed in 2012 and released in U.S. theaters in 2014, stars Annette Bening, Ed Harris, and Robin Williams. Nikki (Bening) and Garret (Harris) are a long-married and still deeply, romantically in love couple, parents of one adult daughter, Summer (played by Jess Weixler). Robin Williams plays Roger, their neighbor. In flashbacks, we learn right away that Garret met a tragic end, drowning while he and Nikki vacation in Mexico.

Fast forward five years. Nikki remains heartbroken but is slowly moving out of her funk, thanks in part to swapping stories of grief with neighbor Roger, who lost his wife about the same time Nikki lost Garret. One day while visiting the art museum, Nikki spots a man who looks not just similar to Garret, the love of her life, but exactly like him. In a roundabout way she pursues the man she soon learns is named Tom, an artist who's been divorced for ten years (Amy Brenneman plays his ex, Ann).

Nikki and Tom (played by Harris, of course) strike up a relationship, seemingly the ultimate do-over for Nikki—who dodges again and again sharing the truth with kind and gentle Tom... who has a secret of his own.

Though the premise is far-fetched, the decent acting makes you think it could happen. The romance between Nikki and Tom rings real. Her hesitancy, his head-over-heels falling for her. (Who wouldn't? She's Annette Bening, for heaven's sake—wrinkles and age spots dimming her beauty not one iota and a perfect match for the rugged handsomeness of Ed Harris.)

Though Bening did a great job expressing the pain and conflict of wanting to hold on to Garret yet embrace Tom, I most applaud Harris and Williams for their work. Harris subtly and successfully made Garret and Tom seem truly different people—who just seem to look exactly alike. And Williams' lonely Roger? He broke my heart, two reasons: First, it's Robin Williams, and knowing he's gone forever still hits hard. Secondly, Williams plays Roger's vulnerability and longing to partner with Nikki perfectly.

I enjoyed seeing Bening, Harris, and Williams realistically portray folks over 50 (60?) who are damaged, afraid, doing their darnedest to get things right and get another chance at love and happiness. All of that without shying away from closeups that highlight their years. My heart went out to each of the characters—and to each of the actors for not hiding behind an overload of makeup or gauzy filters. We need more of such honesty in movies.

Some movies my husband and I watch together elicit nothing more than a "what'd ya think?" after viewing. THE FACE OF LOVE, though, led to some interesting conversation regarding how we might react running into one or the other's doppelganger after he or I had passed. Would we stay away? Would we get as wacky as Nikki? Would we tell the truth? Would we even want such a thing?

Thankfully I don't have to think too hard on that as such things happen only in the movies. (I hope.)

A clip of the film (wherein Bening isn't very considerate of Roger's or Tom's feelings!):


THE FACE OF LOVE (rated PG-13 for brief drug references) is available on DVD and Video On Demand.