Here’s a romantic story brimming with humor, surprise, and reflections on the mystery of love surrounding individuals of an older generation. Old age, romance, grief, delusion and desperation all intersect in a far-fetched tale that nevertheless manages to be affecting.
How far would you go, for a second chance? How much would you risk to resurrect your first love? It’s a situation confronting Nikki (Annette Bening) who, several years after the loss of her husband Garrett, meets a man named Tom (Ed Harris plays both roles) who looks exactly like her deceased husband. Suddenly, a flood of old feelings rush back to her: she’s met the love of her life. Again. It’s a dilemma that confronts the still young-at-heart widow.
Her happily married life is shattered when her husband Garrett suddenly drowns during a Mexican vacation. As years pass and Nikki adjusts to raising their teenage daughter, comforted by support from a confidante and would be lover (Robin Williams in an important role), Nikki gradually comes to grips with her loss…or does she?
A chance visit to an art museum affords her the opportunity to see Tom, a local art teacher, frustrated painter and the perfect double of Nikki’s beloved Garrett, now dead for five years. Aware of the dangers of tempting fate but unable to stop herself, Nikki pursues Tom, meets him, and befriends him. He doesn’t know what to make of this woman who seems infatuated with him, but he’s not going to fight it. She hides all pictures of her late husband, and never sharing the uncanny secret that drew them together, tells Tom she’s divorced. The long since divorced Tom discovers in Nikki a friend and muse, and as her devotion rekindles his passion for life and for his art, the two fall in love.
For Nikki, this love is perfect, or as close to perfect as possible to the love she shared with her husband, save for her well founded fears of what others in her life—her daughter Summer, her close friend and neighbor Roger will say when they discover her secret… and it’s a secret that can’t stay hidden for long in a fast moving relationship. Tom, oblivious to his uncanny resemblance, is quickly drawn closer to her. Nikki must confront the consequences of her extraordinary choice, even as she seeks to keep her charmed “second chance” alive. When the characters are forced to confront the unbelievable truth, the result is an explosive love story that pushes its heroine to the brink of sanity.
Unfolding with the simplicity of a timeless fable, but speaking with an unmistakably contemporary voice, the narrative grapples with the most fundamental questions of love and loss that life has to offer.
The narrative sprang from an every day situation; a woman crossing the street. Writer/director Arie Posin recalls, “It was about five years after my father passed away. She came over one day and said it’s almost word for word what Nikki says in the movie, ‘You know, this funny thing happened to me today. I was walking across the street and I saw this man coming towards me who was a carbon copy of your father. I had my glasses in my hand, and I started to put them on and then I didn’t put them on.’ “And I asked why not, and she said, ‘I knew it wasn’t him. I knew it wasn’t your father, but I was shocked. I was standing in the middle of the street and to see this man coming towards me… it just felt so nice. It felt like it used to.’ And that moment stuck with me. I started thinking about it, dreaming about it, even. And that eventually led to this whole story. What if she had tried to find this man again? And what if they met? What would those conversations be like? And what would happen if they were to fall in love?”
Bening, who hasn’t had many big screen outings recently, holds attention particularly with her eyes, her complicated smiles, and quiet eloquence. She creates a woman who we care about; someone whose face still carries the glow of being in love even years later, and who knows that following her heart toward Tom is foolish yet is guided by the fates.
Williams gives a wistful yet curiously calibrated performance that suggests a simmering mysterious subtext. He doesn’t have a lot to do, but basically show up and look somewhat forlorn. This is definitely not a typical Robin Williams movie.
Harris and Bening have definite chemistry that rises above the syrupy plot which too often hinges on implausible coincidence. However, over 92 minutes the film evokes comfortable emotions that are never overwhelming. It also demonstrates that at an age when Hollywood starts putting actors out to pasture with supporting roles and bit parts, the principals here embrace the material an indication that cupids arrow can hit the target at any age.
“Face of Love” is currently showing on select screens.
By: Alex Reynolds