The Face of an Angel (2014)

The Face of an Angel (2014)
  • Time: 101 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Michael Winterbottom
  • Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Daniel Brühl, Cara Delevingne


“The Face Of An Angel” tells the story of a journalist and a filmmaker as they lose themselves in a notorious murder case they are covering. Based on true events, a riveting account of the controversial case of a American student accused of murder in Italy.

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  • The Face of an Angel is written for the screen by Paul Viragh and is based on the book Angel Face: Sex, Murder, and the Inside Story of Amanda Knox by Barbie Latza Nadeau. Knox was the divisive central character in the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher, and the focus of the international press, who all but tripped over themselves to report every salacious detail of the case.

    The Face of an Angel is not about the Kercher murder or the Knox trial, though the details of both are dealt with in a hasty and cursory manner. Nor is it about foregrounding Kercher who has, as one character in the film notes, disappeared from the story. Rather, the film is about down in the dumps filmmaker Thomas (Daniel Brühl) and his attempts to make a movie about the sensationalistic tale.

    “If you’re going to make a movie, make it fiction. You cannot tell the truth unless you make it fiction,” journalist Simone (Kate Beckinsale) advises in one of the film’s meta moments. Thomas tries but between the contradictory evidence, the overheated and often manipulative media coverage, and his own personal problems (his famous wife has dumped him, he’s missing his young daughter), he’s finding it difficult to wrangle the beast of creativity into submission.

    Obsessed with Dante – he even named his daughter after Beatrice from Dante’s Divine Comedy – Thomas becomes fixed on structuring his screenplay like Dante’s work. Director Michael Winterbottom does the same with The Face of an Angel. Simone acts as Thomas’ guide through Hell, where bloodthirsty reporters scavenge for scandal and one local man claims to know the real truth. Purgatory sees Thomas spiraling deeper into drugs, paranoia, and halfhearted sex with Simone. The arrival of Melanie (Cara Delevingne) positions him on the road to Heaven as the carefree young woman urges him to be happy and helps Thomas to realise that he wants to make a film about life and love, not about death.

    Much like Thomas’ frustration with fashioning the case into something coherent, it’s difficult to grasp Winterbottom’s intentions with this film. On the one hand, it’s admirable that he and Viragh opted to move away from the very elements (sex and violence) that would have immediately appealed to the viewer. On the other hand, what they have chosen to build their film around is not particularly interesting. Brühl is defeated by Thomas, who is an exceedingly tedious and tiresome character.

    For all its good intentions, The Face of an Angel doesn’t generate much interest in what it’s attempting to convey about society’s predilection for violence, the media’s easily swayed objectivity, that truth is never pure and always elusive. Winterbottom is usually an energetic filmmaker but his talents are dulled here. Model-of-the-moment Delevingne, who is poised to be the next big thing with roles in Paper Towns and Suicide Squad, is a natural and radiant presence.

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