The End of Love (**½)

end_of_love_ver2Mark Webber is quietly setting up a potential career as a triple threat. A known if hardly A-list actor, he’s also a writer-director and his sophomore feature ‘The End of Love’ is a showcase for his talents. Easily his best performance to date, Webber also shows some potential as a filmmaker, but honestly he’s not quite there yet. Webber’s hit on an emotional nerve in this story of a single father trying to make it in show business while raising a young son, but it’s not often focused enough to completely work. There are things to like here, especially Webber’s acting, but it doesn’t all come together and wraps up in a way that’s less than satisfying. This one took a while to come to theaters after some decent buzz out of Sundance a few years ago, but it’s safe to assume that this will have a short life in cinemas. That being said, it’s a solid calling card and hints at a film down the road that could really break through and make Webber a triple threat to reckon with. This movie isn’t it, but the flick is hardly terrible. It’s above average, but just not quite cohesive enough to get my recommendation.

Mark (played by Webber) is a struggling actor who faces a crisis no one should have to go through. Completely unprepared for adult life, he has responsibility fully thrust upon him when his wife dies in a car accident, leaving him to take care of his two year old son Isaac (Isaac Love) by himself. It’s a delicate balancing act, as Mark needs to try and go on auditions to make money, though at the moment he’s broke and has to take Isaac on his auditions with him, and that doesn’t go well at all. He’s yet to explain what happened to Isaac in any way, but when he develops some feelings for another single parent named Lydia (Shannyn Sossamon), he realizes that he needs to actually deal with life in a way that he’s been avoiding. Mark is trying to make one very specific sort of life work out for him and Isaac, but he may have to face up to the fact that it’s just not in the cards. Mostly, the film consists of following Mark and Isaac around, building their characters. Individual scenes are powerful, but it just doesn’t quite come together well enough.

the-end-of-love-800x450-thumb-550x309-60368Apparently directing himself is what was needed to get Mark Webber to deliver a really strong performance. Webber really gets you to identify with this character, even if you don’t particularly like him at times. Especially in the way that he deals with the young child, played by Isaac Love, you just have your heart break when the emotion comes on. Love is what he is, but Webber is outstanding. They worked really well together too. I liked Shannyn Sossamon just fine, but she’s not used too well here. The cast also includes a host of people cameoing as themselves, basically as Hollywood friends of Mark, and they include Michael Cera, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Ritter, Michael Angarano, Alia Shawkat, and Amanda Seyfried. In the end though, this begins and ends with Webber’s work.

As a writer and director, Webber has the right idea, but he wasn’t quite able to figure out a way to keep the film as compelling as he obviously felt that it was. The shots are very simple and nearly documentary like, while the script feels very much like something that was transferred into improvisation on the set. Webber keeps everything very simple, and obviously was able to get a top notch performance out of himself, but the film itself just doesn’t quite emerge as a finished product. I’m not quite sure what he could have done to make it work, but this does really feel like a great short that was blown up into a full length feature. The final scenes of the movie have some real emotion to them, but the moment that Webber ends on is a questionable one. A better ending might have put things over the top, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Overall, while my thumb isn’t up for ‘The End of Love’, I wouldn’t say that it’s down either. Mark Webber is growing as an actor and a filmmaker, so this is very much a work in progress. In a decade, this may be something we look back on and see as a baby step, but that remains to be seen. Here in 2013, this is a slightly disappointing character study that gives us two very interesting characters and then doesn’t quite do enough with them. If you were interested in this flick when you first heard about it at Sundance, then you might want to seek it out, but if not just wait until it’s available at home. That might help to lower expectations…

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