MRR Review: "The Face of Love"

Photo Credit: IFC Films

Rating: PG-13
Length: 92 minutes
Release Date: March 7, 2014
Directed by: Arie Posin
Genre: Drama / Romance

“The Face of Love” explores the thrills and dangers of recapturing a love that is lost. The film follows the life of Nikki, played by Annette Bening, who begins a new relationship five years after the death of her husband. As her new relationship progresses, Nikki begins to confuse the past with the present.


"The Face of Love" opens with Nikki, a real estate stager, wandering through the L.A. County Museum of Art. She catches a glimpse of a man, but ends up losing him in the crowd. The film then shifts to flashback of Nikki and her husband, Garrett, enjoying a vacation in Mexico. The couple parties the night away, but things turn tragic when Garrett drowns in the ocean.

Haunted by her memories, Nikki returns to the museum the following day to find the intriguing stranger who strongly resembles her dead husband. She fails to find him, so she returns to the museum every day at the same time. After several weeks, she eventually spots the man. Nikki quickly approaches him, and learns that his name is Tom and that he is an artist. Grasping at any opportunity to see him again, Nikki hires him as her private art tutor.

Nikki and Tom soon begin a romantic relationship, which causes Nikki to confuse the past with the present. She takes Tom places she went with Garrett, and even has him wear the suit Garrett wore on the night he died. As the film progresses, Nikki becomes increasing obsessed with recapturing the life she had with Garrett. She hides her relationship from her daughter and closest friends, and tells Tom she is divorced rather than widowed to hide her past. As Tom begins to uncover the truth, Nikki makes a desperate attempt to hold on to her delusions and memories.


"The Face of Love" features a large cast of veteran actors who all excel in their roles. Annette Bening is the standout performer in this film, beautifully reflecting the range of emotions involved with love and loss. This task is made all the more difficult, since her character simultaneously grieves and deceives, while trying to maintain the appearance of perfection.

Director Arie Posin wisely cast Ed Harris to play the characters of Garrett and Tom. Having the same actor for both of these roles made Nikki's delusions more chilling. However, Harris excelled at creating different identities for his characters to make the roles distinct, and to contrast Nikki's perspective.


"The Face of Love" was filmed in just 26 days, but the production is absolutely superb. The film is very artistic in its approach, which is reflective of the characters' occupations. For example, Nikki is a stager, Tom is a painter and Garrett is an architect. Posin took full advantage of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where several key scenes were shot. While Nikki painfully waits to see Tom again, the camera pans across stunning artwork. Several times during the film, "The Raising of Lazarus" is shown. This painting depicts Jesus rising from the dead, which parallels the plot line of the movie.

Nikki's home is also constructed like a piece of art. Built by her husband Garrette, Nikki lives in a perfect home that is compared to the jewel box her husband buys her in Mexico. The perfection of her home, and her desire to create perfectly-stage homes at work, mimics her drive to continue her seemingly-perfect marriage by seducing Tom.

Plot Construction

Throughout the film, Tom comes off slightly aloof. It takes him until the end of the film to find out everything that Nikki is hiding. Although this slows down the pace of the film, it provides many chilling scenes where Tom unknowingly recreates memories of Garrett. The film does, however, mix the right amount of reality and delusion. Posin met the challenge of creating a character that is consumed with fantasy without sacrificing the character's credibility.

At the conclusion of the film, the audience is left deciding what is real and what takes place only in Nikki's mind. At several points, Garrette and Tom nearly blur into the same person. However, the film is saved by Nikki's ability to let the past go. While the film take on qualities of an ideological thriller, the conclusion is striking clear.

Ultimately, "The Face of Love" is an expertly-crafted film. Arie Posin effectively balanced perception with reality, and provided the audience with a definitive conclusion. With an artistic background and excellent performances by Bening and Harris, this film is a must-see.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Tags: Ed Harris