Annette Benning and Ed Harris give genuinely fine and sensitive performances as middle-aged lovers; the camera’s honesty strokes each well-earned wrinkle, with tenderness. “The Face of Love”, realistically addresses the paralyzing depth of grief; no one ever truly recovers from a sudden loss; a loved one ripped, in a nanosecond, from one’s life, nothing prepares you for the cauterization of your heart; the tsunami of emotions unleashing torrents of agony; palpable pain coming and going whimsically; no respite from profound emotional devastation.
“Nikki” (Benning) and “Garrett” (Harris) dazzlingly in love; celebrate their thirtieth anniversary in Mexico; disaster strikes and Garrett drowns. Five years pass and Nikki goes through the motions of surviving; making marketable, empty homes, by temporarily furnishing, flowering, even recreating the scent of freshly baked cakes or bread, so prospective buyers imagine a life in this well-scented, decorated, contrived domicile. A metaphor for her numbed existence.
She and Garrett, an architect, spent hours in LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art); serendipitously, she visits the museum, relives some poignant moments, and like Lot’s wife, freezes when she sees “Tom” (Harris), Garrett’s doppelganger; Tom is an art teacher and artist, charmingly unaware, as Nikki slowly dissolves his integrity, resurrecting in human form the ghost of her dead husband.
The film sinks into absurdity as Nikki surreptitiously hides Tom from her neighbors, daughter, ultimately herself. All yearn for the presence, familiar touch of a lost, cherished one; at times, catching us unawares, we see them, feel them but those moments, visions pass; deprived of choice, we protect the chasm, and prevail.
“The Face of Love” sorrowfully, could have been so much better; Benning and Harris transcend the plot with terrific performances and memorable, mesmerizing “faces”.
TWO & 1/2 STARS!!