Imagine if you lost a loved one, then saw their doppelgÃ¤nger on the street soon after. The moment would leave you breathless and no doubt trapped somewhere between mourning and euphoria.
For writer-director Arie Posin, the idea didnâ€™t need any power of imagination: It actually happened to his mother, prompting him to put pen to paper and turn it into a new movie starring Annette Bening and Ed Harris called The Face of Love.
â€œMy mom came over a few years after my dad had passed away and says â€¦ very lightly, â€˜This funny thing happened to me today: I was in a crosswalk and went across the street and saw this man walking towards me who was the perfect double of your father. I had my glasses in my hand and was about to put them on and then I didnâ€™t because I knew it wasnâ€™t him, of course, but he had this great smile on his face and it was nice to imagine it was him. And then the light turned.â€™â€�
Posin says that story circled his mind for years.
â€œWhen I finally sat down to write it, I thought I was writing a story about my mom. But my mom didnâ€™t obsess about it at all. I realized I was making a movie about me.â€�
A bittersweet story that combines elements of loss with beats of deep personal discovery, The Face of Love is an altogether unorthodox romance, but it makes the same leaps of faith â€” and bounds of denial, as Annette Bening meets a man who looks just like her dead husband and starts up a relationship with the dead ringer.
â€œShe is falling in love, but she is also losing herself in it,â€� says Posin. â€œThereâ€™s a sense of the growing madness, but we still need to identify with her because sheâ€™s our way into the movie. We have to go with her on that journey.â€�
Posin knew he needed to cast an actor who could capture the depth and sensitivity required to make us care, without leaning on sentimentalism.
â€œAnnette was an obvious first choice,â€� he says. â€œShe embodied the emotional state of that character better than anyone.
â€œI wish I had more words at my disposal to describe her commitment to get at the truth and wanting to make it true and real. She is as committed to that as I am to the movie being good.â€�
Yet, writing a story with a female lead proved a significant liability when it came time to finance the movie, even with Bening.
â€œNobody wanted to finance the movie â€” even with these actors at a modest budget. Itâ€™s a woman in the lead role, it stars actors who are not in their 20s and on the cover of US Weekly, and itâ€™s drama. It had three strikes,â€� he says.
â€œThe financiers who were bold enough had never invested in movies before â€¦ but they saw an opportunity because every time I go out there â€¦ people always say why arenâ€™t they making more movies like this?â€�
Posin says he makes movies he would like to see himself, which is why he created characters who were older, wiser, more textured and more versed in matters of life and death.
â€œIâ€™m moved by ideas,â€� he says. â€œBut itâ€™s hard to make movies.â€�
Posin explains the eight-year gap between his last movie, Chumscrubber, and Face of Love with a story of development hell: He was working on a satire of the Iraq War when he lost a key cast member, then the markets crashed, and then that movie was dead.
â€œIn tough times, itâ€™s even tougher on the arts,â€� he says.
As the child of Russian exiles who escaped to Israel, Posin says he grew up with a fundamental appreciation for the arts, and their importance in the creation of a noble mind. He says that sensibility was nurtured during his early years in Canada.
â€œI was born in Israel, but my family really wanted to come west at a time when it was very difficult. Everyone rejected them except Canada. Canada threw out a life preserver and saved our family.â€�
Posin now makes his home in the U.S. but he loves coming back to Canada and seeing his family.
â€œMy father was a director in Russia, and the Toronto Star did a series of articles about him, and it was all about his experiences in the underground and wanting to have freedom of expression.
â€œThe picture of us all getting our citizenship is still on the wall at my momâ€™s house.â€�
Telling stories is the way we learn about ourselves, and our family, but they also form identity.
In the end, every movie you make is about your own experience, says Posin. â€œThereâ€™s an unconscious thing that every project speaks to. And Iâ€™ve learned to trust that feeling of rightness.â€�
The Face of Love screens Friday, Oct. 11 7:30 p.m., Playhouse; Friday, Oct. 11. 7 p.m. The Centre.