FILM REVIEW by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
THE FACE OF AN ANGEL
Alongside Woody Allen and Ridley Scott, Michael Winterbottom is among the most prolific filmmakers at work today. The British auteur averages a movie a year. This is both a blessing and a curse. At best, Winterbottom’s movies can be fun and breezy (The Trip saga, 24 Hour Party People). At worst, they feel painfully undercooked (The Killer Inside Me, the unwatchable Trishna).
The Face of an Angel falls somewhere in the middle: It features plenty of good ideas that don’t quite fit together, and a principled hero who walks the line between noble and hopelessly naïve.
While openly inspired by the Amanda Knox case (the film is dedicated to the deceased victim Meredith Kercher), The Face of an Angel is less interested in the culpability of the American student than the moral quagmire it triggered. Compromised journalists, incompetent judicial system, and a crowd thirsty for blood mix in a small Italian town, each group more interested in reaffirming their own agendas than finding out what really happened.
The audience’s stand-in is Thomas (Daniel Bruhl, Rush), a filmmaker trying to write a script about the case (very meta) and perhaps the only person interested in the objective truth. Soon, his balance is thrown out of whack by his unraveling personal life, a fetching journo (Kate Beckinsale) working the case, and a persistent case of writer’s block.
The Face of an Angel is at its best when focused on the callous group of reporters stationed in town, mostly because of the accuracy of the portrayal (rampant insensitivity and cynicism, hookups out of boredom, considerable alcohol intake). By comparison, Thomas is a wet noodle. By the time he decides to match his take on the case to Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, one is yearning for another Beckinsale quip or a Cara Delevingne sighting.
There is something to be said about Winterbottom’s ambition. The filmmaker recognizes the pressing matters at play in this scenario. But trying to deal with all of them, plus the issue of artistic integrity at the same time, is a bridge too far.