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The Two Faces of January

Directed by Hossein Amini

UK, 2014

Cornerhouse, 25 May 2014

The Two Faces of January

Patricia Highsmith’s novel has been made into a film that is beautiful to look at, golden Greek light and all, but a little flat.

The story drags somewhat.  Also, right from the start when Rydal (Oscar Isaac) momentarily mistakes Chester (Viggo Mortensen) for his recently deceased father, there’s a hysterical strain – and it becomes steadily more discordant.  Now when reading Highsmith this kind of thing is not uncommon and generally works well: her characters’ obsessions and anxieties meld with your own current concerns and it is a journey you can take together.  But in a film you’re not inside or at one with these characters; you look at them.  And you notice how messed up, self serving and banal they are.  Stupid too: they don’t act in their own self interest.

Another difficulty with the film is that the director seems unsure whether he’s presenting us with a folie à deux (a la Strangers on a Train) or a conventional love triangle (Rydal, Chester and Colette).  The former is more in the spirit of the novel, but the film veers from one to the other.

To summarize: It’s too slow, the characters are unsympathetic, the premise of the story is confused.  In the end, you don’t believe any of it.