Face to Face – “An edge of your seat drama with plenty of heart.” -Brett Chapin
The film, Face to Face, is a story that examines the benefits of the legal mediation process. Face to Face was directed by Michael Rymer; probably best know to American audiences for directing numerous episodes of Battlestar Gallactica as well as the film Queen of the Damned. Shot in Australia on a shoestring budget over the course of just 12 days Face to Face is fantastic proving once again that you don’t need millions of dollars to make a high quality film.
Face to Face is based on a play by David Williamson, best know to American audiences for “The Year of Living Dangerously.”
Face to Face begins in the same room where most of the action takes place. Chairs arranged in a circle with all of the characters facing each other. Hence the title Face to Face. The audience is immediately transported into this room. No unnecessary build up or back story. The mediator enters and the discussion begins.
The central focus of the discussion is Wayne, realistically portrayed by Luke Ford. A disgruntled construction worker who has taken his frustrations out on his employer Greg, played by Vince Colosimo. A significant amount of the film is told in flashbacks as the audience learns the specifics of the case. Wayne, after being fired from his construction job, runs his car into the back of his former employers Jaguar, causing massive damage to the car and leaving Greg with minor injuries. As opposed to being brought to trial all parties have agreed to have the case settled by a mediator, Jack Manning, sensitively portrayed by Matthew Nelson.
On the surface this seems like a very open and shut case however throughout the course of the film we learn that there’s really much more to this situation than meets the eye. Patterns of greed, sexual harassment, infidelity and mean spirited practical jokes have all led up to this unfortunate event. As the discussion progresses it seems that around every corner we find out something new about the work environment that may have been a contributing factor to Wayne’s actions. Other workers look down on Wayne and constantly play practical jokes. One of these practical jokes being what led to him be fired in the first place. We almost feel sorry for him.
Robert Rabiah and Christopher Connelly do an effective job of portraying Wayne’s co-workers. One more cruel and commending and one a little more sensitive and understanding of Wayne’s situation. Lauren Clair as Wayne’s mother conveys both pain and sensitivity while showing that as an actor she has the ability to unquestionably steal a scene. Josh Sacks as Wayne’s longtime friend and and Laura Gordan as Greg’s secretary both both advance the story by showing different sides of Wayne’s past and his work environment.
The two standout of the cast are Ra Chapman as Greg’s mild mannered and quiet accountant, Therese and Sigrid Thornton as Greg’s somewhat naive wife Clair. Sigrid commands the film whenever she is on camera with a grace that’s not often seen inAmerican cinema. The only accurate comparison I can draw to her style would be a Meryl Streep or an Annette Benning. You never “see” her acting and this is a rare skill to possess.
Ra Chapman’s character is quiet and shy which means that the majority of her vocalization has to be done through body language and facial expressions. Not an easy assignment for an actor and she takes on this task to brilliant effect.
Michael Rymer’s directing and script was fast paced and moves the story along without delay. I found myself constantly wondering what was going to happen next. And isn’t that the idea of great cinema?
The thing that I found most interesting about the film was the fact that it examined the legal mediation system. Something that I’d been somewhat unfamiliar with until I saw it depicted in this film. Could the mediation system become an effective alternative to the criminal court system? This film seems to suggest that the answer is yes and after seeing this film I tend to agree. This country will always need a criminal justice system but could many matters be settled without the cost and time commitment of going through the traditional litigation process. After seeing this film I believe that it just might be possible. Interesting food for thought.
All that being said this film isn’t without one large flaw. At the conclusion of the film the matter is settled and all parties venture upstairs to have lunch and enjoy the company of one another. This did seem very unrealistic. They’ve just been through a lengthy mediation process. I don’t see them sitting down and eating lunch as if nothing had happened. The film would have been more striking had the final montage been edited out.
Overall however this was a well thought out piece of cinema. Michael Rymer does a great job of breaking of dramatic moments with occasional humor, so as not to push the audience one direction or another. It’s been the winner of numerous awards including The Santa Barbara Film Festival’s independent feature award and is a great study of drama as each character brings a unique personality trait to the table. This is one not to be missed.
For more information of Face to Face, visit facetofacethemovie.com
Until next time this is Thespian Thoughts. I’m Brett Chapin and I’ll see you at the theatre.
Thespian Thoughts is a show on Actors Entertainment, a channel on the Actors Podcast Network, a Pepper Jay Production.