What would happen if you saw someone with an uncanny resemblance to a late friend or family member? How would you react? Filmmaker Arie Posin’s mother had a close encounter with a man who looked eerily like her late husband, and the director was so intrigued by this story that he wrote a screenplay, with Matthew McDuffie, about the peculiar situation.
Titled The Face of Love, Posin’s film opened in theatres last Friday after a festival run that included stops in Toronto and San Sebastian. It tells the story of Nikki (Annette Bening), a widow who falls in love with an artist named Tom (Ed Harris), who looks exactly like her late husband.
Posin is an Israeli-born director who lived in Canada before moving to Los Angeles and heading to film school at the University of Southern California. The Face of Love marks his second film, after 2005’s coming-of-age indie comedy The Chumscrubber. He is also attached to the dark comedy Duchess, starring Glenn Close.
Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Posin for a one on one interview about his new film. Among other things, he spoke about the inspiration for this offbeat love story, working with Robin Williams and the long, winding road to getting The Face of Love made.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
WGTC: This story of finding a double of her husband is so peculiar and intriguing. What inspired this story?
Arie Posin (AP): It actually started with something that happened to my mom. Just after my dad had passed away, she was actually near the L.A. County Museum of Art. She was at a crosswalk on Wilshire Boulevard and she looked up and saw a man coming toward her who looked like a double of my dad. She came over to see me that day. She actually said in words very similar to what Nikki, Annette Bening’s character, says in the movie. She said, “a funny thing happened to me today. I saw this man coming toward me who looked like a perfect double of your dad. And I said, “what did you do? And she said, “you know, I knew it wasn’t your dad. But he had a big smile on his face coming toward me and it felt so good to imagine that that was really him, that he was still around.” I was really moved by that story and I started some notes about it and started to think about it. Eventually, I thought it would be a good subject for a movie. And that’s what led to The Face of Love.
WGTC: It’s a very tricky balance with a story like this, because the protagonist acts in such a peculiar way. You’re not exactly sure whether you would be doing something similar in this situation. While writing the script, was it a challenge to figure out that reality and how much of a suspension of disbelief you could allow?
AP: Clearly this is a story about a woman who is falling in love, but also at the same time, is falling into her memories of the past and confusion over the memories of her late husband and confusing him with the man in front of her. The big question was always, how long can we keep her sane? In other words, I kept going back to the story of my mom. Really, when she saw the double on the street, she wasn’t crazy, she wasn’t imagining it, it wasn’t a fantasy. It was reality. She told me it took her a week to get over it.
One of the things that’s happened during Q&As for the movie and going to various screenings, people come up to me at just about every screening. They say, “this happened to me. I lost someone – whether it was their father or sister or husband – and then I saw someone who so strikingly reminded me of them.” To me, it was always my feeling that if [the Nikki character] is sane and not fantasizing and this is really happening, the longer we can hold onto that, the more the audience will identify with her character. At a certain point when she loses her mind, we just become observers, as opposed to actively participating in the drama.
WGTC: Well, Annette Bening and Ed Harris are key to making that work. They are so terrific in this film and give such lovely performances. How did they become involved with this project?
AP: We just sent them the script. I find these days for independent film, finding the actors is not as difficult as it used to be. We send them the script and then if they like it, if we all get along and we’re all on the same page creatively, then they’re in. The much harder process on this movie was raising the money and financing it. It has a bunch of strikes against it. It’s a drama, which these days is a four-letter-word in Hollywood, it’s a love story and it stars two people who are over the age of 25. That was really the challenge. I find especially great actors like these want to act. That’s where their joy is… they’re looking for material that lets them explore something interesting, emotional, complicated. We were pretty lucky to get this caliber of actors.
The challenge of finding the money is what took over a year, a year-and-a-half. Ultimately, we found the financing for this movie from a group of people who had never invested in film before. They were just people who loved movies and felt, as we did, that there were painfully few of these kinds of movie directed at an adult audience being made anymore. And they’ve already made their money back. Hopefully, we can make more of these movies, because I think there’s an audience and an appetite for these stories.