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New Release Review - The Face of an Angel

A filmmaker attempts to make a documentary investigating the murder of an English college student in Italy.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Cara Delevingne, Daniel Bruhl



The names may have been changed but Michael Winterbottom and his screenwriter Paul Viragh do little to disguise the fact that The Face of an Angel is explicitly based on the real life case of the murder of English student Meredith Kercher and the subsequent media circus camped around the case. Indeed the film claims to be an adaptation of writer Barbie Latza Nadeau's non-fiction book Angel Face, an account of the trial of Kercher's accused killer, American student Amanda Knox. The film even goes so far as to include a closing dedication to the memory of Kercher herself.
Bruhl plays Thomas, a once successful filmmaker who arrives in Italy with the aim of revitalising his career with a documentary investigating the murder of English student Elizabeth Pryce in the medieval city of Siena. His initial guide is Simone (Beckinsale) the melancholic author of a bestselling book on the subject, but soon he befriends Melanie (Delevingne), another English student working nights in a local bar in the city. The further he investigates the case, the more he becomes haunted by terrors both real and imagined.
Winterbottom's film does little to shed light on the infamous Kercher killing, using it merely as a backdrop for a story that plays out like a poorly conceived homage to Antonioni's The Passenger, with Bruhl's Thomas attempting to escape the troubles of his life by hooking up with a younger girl and losing himself in a foreign locale. The relationship between Thomas and Melanie is an odd one. Initially Thomas recruits the student to act as a guide through the Siena social scene, but Melanie proves practically useless in this regard. Their coupling is purely platonic as presented here, but the movie gives the impression it's been rendered so in the editing suite. On the other hand, Thomas does bed Simone, a pairing that's hard to swallow. Despite looking like Kate Beckinsale, Simone seems inexplicably lonely and desperate for male company.
Ultimately, The Face of an Angel will be remembered as the introduction for many viewers to the phenomenon in the making that is Cara Delevingne. The former model and society girl has a bunch of movies on the way in 2015 and on the evidence of her natural but charismatic performance here we can expect big things from the young Brit. While the rest of the cast appears confused and uncomfortable with the material provided, Delevingne owns every scene she appears in, and unlike her co-star Beckinsale, an actress who simply looks like a movie star, Delevingne may well prove to be the real deal.




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