The Face of Love (4 stars)

The Face of Love

Powerful romantic drama starring Annette Bening, Ed Harris and Robin Williams

Originally called 'The Look of Love', Arie Posin's love story assumes the guise of a compelling psychological drama, taking in grief and obsession and overcoming its cheesier moments to deliver something unexpectedly powerful.

Set in Los Angeles, the film stars Annette Bening as Nikki, a widow who lost her beloved husband Garret (Ed Harris) when he went night-swimming during a romantic holiday in Mexico and was found drowned on the beach the next morning. Nikki is stunned when, five years later, she spots a stranger (Ed Harris again) who looks exactly like her late husband. After obsessively waiting for weeks in the same spot to see him again, she eventually makes contact and discovers his name is Tom. The pair soon begin dating, though Nikki doesn't tell Tom of his resemblance to Garret and tries to keep his existence secret from both her adult daughter, Summer (Jess Weixler), and her besotted neighbour, Roger (Robin Williams).

Bening is terrific as Nikki, who's in control enough to know what she's doing and why, but still unable to stop herself; the intensity of her obsession is keenly felt and you sense that she's indulging in a nostalgic fantasy that she doesn't want to end, just as much as she's forging a new relationship. It helps that she has palpable chemistry with Harris, who's equally good as a man who has also known loss and is captivated by the force of Nikki's desire.

The plot's resemblance to Hitchcock classic Vertigo is no coincidence, as evidenced by both a prominently placed poster and various visual references in the scenes where Nikki follows Tom around the city. However, Posin (who based the story on a real-life incident) and co-writer Matthew McDuffie transcend the awkwardness of the film's more on-the-nose moments, achieving a resolution that's both powerfully emotional and genuinely romantic.

Selected release from Fri 12 Dec.

The Face Of Love official trailer

The Face of Love

  • 4 stars
  • 2013
  • US
  • 1h 30min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Arie Posin
  • Cast: Annette Bening, Ed Harris, Robin Williams
  • UK release: 12 December 2014

Nikki (Bening) is a widow whose husband Garret (Harris) drowned on holiday in Mexico; five years later, she sees a stranger (Harris again) who looks exactly like him, and makes contact with him. Bening as terrific, the chemistry between her and Harris is palpable, and the film achieves a powerful and genuinely romantic…