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The Face of an Angel – Review


Release Date: 19 June 2015
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Writer: Paul Viragh
Cast: Cara Delevingne – Kate Beckinsale – Daniel Brühl



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Posted August 6, 2015 by

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The Face of an Angel Review:

I suppose going into a film like this, you’re prepared to feel a little creeped out. ‘The Face of an Angel’ is a barely concealed take on the murder of Meredith Kercher, and the rollercoaster trial of her fellow students Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. It is adapted from the Barbie Latza Nadeau book about the trial. Nadeau is a journalist who covered the case, and her stand-in in the film is Kate Beckinsale’s Simone Ford. The film follows struggling director (or is it screenwriter?) Thomas (Brühl) as he tries to convert the trial into a plausible piece of cinema. Spoiler alert: He doesn’t get far.

The film is ridiculously convoluted. In its attempt to bring together the worlds of cinema, international media, Dante’s Divine Comedy (don’t ask), Italy, the Italian judiciary, and Italy’s seedy underbelly, it ends up being a tangled mass of nonsense.

The film’s attempt to be very ‘meta’ (ala ‘Adaptation’) never takes off. Its attempts to investigate the sordid side of media investigations is droll and lacks commentary. The fictional case details mirror the actual case, which makes changing the participants’ names pointless. If the filmmakers were trying to achieve something with this film… well, they didn’t.

Do I sound annoyed? That’s because I am. I wasn’t expecting much when I decided to watch this film, but films that lack even a basic sense of commentary on reality baffle me. What’s the point of your existence then, ‘film’? Why am I watching you?

I’m not a fan of biopics or of ‘true story’ adaptations. Two hours is too short a time to investigate everything that happened in a given circumstance. Hollywood (and by extension, some British cinema) has a love of bending too much truth when making a film. This one doesn’t even try to do that! It just meanders along – more interested in providing our hapless protagonist with a goal, than giving a voice to the actual victim (or victims, as the case may be).

Kate Beckinsale is a high-profile actor whose character has no substance. She is rarely more than the official chauffeur for our protagonist. Her performance is passable only because she literally has nothing to do.

Cara Delevingne is everywhere nowadays. In this film, she’s an MPDG (Manic Pixie Dream Girl, something I fear she may get stereotyped into quite soon), and you can make out that is the sole purpose of her role from a mile away. She has distinctive features, but no personality or charisma. In her defence, her character isn’t given much in way of advancement.

The stand out was Brühl. His performance isn’t eye-catchingly outstanding as it was in ‘Rush’ (it’s hard to beat that one, really), but he has heart and is mostly compelling in his scenes. There’s conviction when he argues with the media over their process of twisting the truth; there’s determination when he attempts to convince the studio heads on what his film should be; there’s genuine sorrow seeping through when he contacts his daughter. He has a great role (he’s hardly off screen in the entire film), but it is out of sync with this mess of a film.

Watching this film reminded me of what one of my post-graduate professors warned us of – by being only a writer, all your characters eventually become only writers as well. You need to be more, do more and learn more to make actual characters; significant characters. Far too many films – and books, for that matter – deal with writers and their respective industries. The average person works in an office, punching in at 9am, and wishing they could punch out at 5pm (that never happens nowadays). This film could have been about any of those people who were caught up in this situation – the law enforcers, the other students, the families, the media. No, we get a screenwriter, who refers to himself as the director, and who is very obviously a stand in for the actual screenwriter. It makes the film less significant from the very start, and keeps rolling down that hill with every scene thereafter.

The film is dedicated to Kercher but at no point seems interested in her or her death. The aim for all involved appears to be an attempt to capitalise on a dreadful incident and sensationalise it. It’s macabre and disturbing. The tagline of the film states ‘forget the truth, find the story’, but the film seems to have forgotten both.


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Lestat de Lioncourt
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