With his wife as his partner, Mark (Mark Webber) might have handled parenthood fine. Alone, he has neither the maturity nor the wherewithal to rise to the task. The End of Love studies a man in disarray after his wife’s death, trying to care for his 2-year-old son yet lacking (or unwilling to use) any of the tools needed to do so. He soon finds himself alone and lost in a haze of young adulthood.
If it weren’t for the baby, Mark’s life would be fairly normal for an aspiring actor. He lives with a bunch of roommates and routinely promises them that he’ll pay the rent soon. But lugging his son to auditions doesn’t inspire confidence in casting agents, leaving Mark in a constant state of anticipation—waiting for that awesome job on the horizon, waiting for some sort of magical fix-all to end his woes.
While the title and subject suggest a rather dour affair, The End of Love is actually quite perky in its own quiet, meandering way. Writer/director and star Webber illustrates the divide between youthful ambition and adult responsibility with deadpan humor. But most importantly, he conveys a sweet, rich link between father and son.
Webber shot the movie with his son, Isaac Love, as his costar. Rather than training his baby to recite lines, he let the boy be himself and coaxed natural reactions out of him through his own behavior. Cynics might see Webber’s creative choice as exploitative, but the technique is perfect for the film.
Love has the sort of youthful spontaneity that can’t be scripted, and his interactions with his father are truly special. It helps that the kid is adorable, but it’s more important that we see his father’s love, frustration and fear. Without such a deep relationship, The End of Love would merely be yet another portrait of a loser.
Cinematographer Patrice Lucien Cochet captures the performances with a cool, muted color palate and intimate photography captures the poignancy in not just the father-and-son moments, but with all the people Mark encounters. (Shannyn Sossamon gives a solid turn as another single parent and potential love interest, who is rightfully wary of getting too close to Mark.)
Other notable performances come from actors who are more successful than our hero, as themselves. The movie deftly satirizes Hollywood hierarchy, first in a botched audition with Amanda Seyfried, and later with a pot-hazed Hollywood party at Michael Cera’s residence. Cera is always willing to toy with his trademark persona, and here he’s quite funny as an archetypal Hollywood megalomaniac, rambling about his new balcony, its lack of a rail, and other absurdities.
Mark’s presence at the party provides an interesting window into his character. He can justify being there because he needs to network to keep his career going. But the party also fulfills his desire to hang with the cool kids, to embrace his reckless self and go back to the times when he could go out on the town with no worries or responsibilities.
Much like its main character’s life, The End of Love lacks structure. This isn’t the kind of movie that forces its characters into a strong, self-propelling narrative. However, those willing to drift along with it will find a compelling character study about a man coming to terms with himself, his son, and the people who enter their lives.
Director: Mark Webber
Writer: Mark Webber
Starring: Mark Webber, Isaac Love, Shannyn Sossamon, Jason Ritter, Amanda Seyfried, Michael Cera, Aubrey Plaza
Release Date: Mar. 1, 2013