Is This Real Life? The End of Love‘s Touching Moments Are Overshadowed by Navel-gazing Direction

 Is This Real Life? <em>The End of Love</em>s Touching Moments Are Overshadowed by Navel gazing DirectionNobody really wants to see your home movies but you. Struggling actor-writer-producer-director Mark Webber would be wise to keep that in mind after the tepid reaction to his sincere but inconsequential The End of Love. 

The movie stars Mr. Webber, who calls himself by his own first name, and his 2-year-old son Isaac Love, who is called Isaac. Autobiographical in theme and tone, the film was inspired by Mr. Webber’s breakup with Isaac’s mother. Onscreen, the boy’s mom was killed in a car accident from which Mark has not recovered. So he juggles the roles of wannabe New York actor eager but failing to break into the Hollywood movie scene and single dad with a loving but demanding child to raise. He has so little money and time that he is forced to take the kid with him to an audition with Amanda Seyfried, who plays herself.

Trying to clothe and feed Isaac, he buys him toys with money he doesn’t have. Strung-out and desperate for sleep he never gets enough of, he battles loneliness, insecurity and the need for emotional support. Awkward attempts to meet compassionate women prove hopeless. One single mom who runs a day care center likes Isaac and seems sympathetic to Mark’s needs, but he pounces on the first date and tells her he loves her, which sends her running. An encounter with an old flame from New York crashes when she realizes he’s an unemployed loser with a baby. On the rare occasion when he is on the verge of freedom, there is always the child to consider. Added to the pressure of getting a job, paying off his debts and balancing his life with rest, relaxation and responsibilities he’s too young to shoulder alone, Mark’s car is towed and his roommates evict him for defaulting on the rent. You can’t help but empathize, yet you eventually realize Mark’s life is a freeze-frame docudrama, and so is the movie. He’s a good enough director to make you want to see what he might do with more substantial material and a better script.

Meanwhile, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to watch a 2-year-old child steal an entire movie right out from under the grown-ups, this is your chance. Isaac is a talky, inquisitive and fearless little actor who obviously trusts his dad without reservation. Mr. Webber’s relationship with his son is a sensitive, moment-to-moment character study between man and child that is delicately nuanced and punctuated by improvised naturalism. I like the scenes that unfold in long single takes in real time. The film careens awkwardly in the direction of self-indulgent sentimentality when Mark takes Isaac to visit his mother’s grave and tries to teach him the meaning of death, but even in the awkward moments, his obsession with realism keeps the viewer in the picture. I really wanted to meet that little boy, clean up his messy home and do something to save him from living in his father’s automobile. At the same time, I wanted Mr. Webber to pick up the pace and get on with it instead of detouring to a Hollywood party for an intrusive and pointless 20 minutes of padding, and introducing us to people like Michael Cera and Jason Ritter, among other friends who drop by to help out. I don’t know why the film is called The End of Love, because no matter what obstacles Mr. Webber faces, his devotion to Isaac is never going to fade.

There are some lovely and moving things here, but over the long haul it’s more like watching an hour and a half of someone’s weekend trip to Knott’s Berry Farm.

 

THE END OF LOVE

Running Time 90 minutes

Written and Directed by Mark Webber

Starring Isaac Love, Mark Webber and Amanda Seyfried

 

rreed@observer.com