I’m always on the lookout for movies that portray older adults in meaningful and positive ways. The 2013 film “The Face of Love” starring Annette Bening, Ed Harris, and Robin Williams is an unusual love story. While some film critics blasted the picture for its macabre storyline, I found the movie to have three important messages for mature viewers.
One insight the movie relayed was that different people respond in different ways to the death of a spouse. Robin’s character enjoyed being surrounded by his deceased wife’s things and got comfort from the constant reminders. On the other hand, Annette’s character felt the reminders unbearable and cleared everything of her husband’s out of the house not long after his death. No wrong way; no right way. Just each individual coping in their own way.
The second message was a reminder that people can find love again late in life. Although the relationship didn’t last, due to Annette’s character being obsessed with seeing her deceased husband in this new man, the time they spent together was precious.
The third message the movie portrayed was that a brief but intense love can bring lasting improvements to the lives of the people involved. Ed’s character was so moved by the love he felt that he was inspired to get back to his passion, producing a gallery of paintings for the first time in years. When Annette’s character first sees his painting that featured her stepping into her pool, she finally was able to start swimming again, something she’d loved but had given up after her husband drowned.
Watching Annette’s character return to her swimming pool at the end of the movie reminded me of another love story. The penniless Jack Dawson and the aristocrat Rose in “Titanic” also had a very short-lived but significant love. Both Rose and Annette’s character go on to live a fuller life because of the gifts of a brief but pivotal relationship.
If you can get past the odd plot of a widow attracted to a man who is a dead ringer for her late husband, the movie has its merits. Besides the strong performances of the lead actors, it offers an uplifting portrayal of adults over 50 that I found refreshing.