The End of Love
Runs Fri., April 12–Thurs., April 18 at Grand Illusion. Not rated. 90 minutes.
Mark Webber, the young writer, director, and star of The End of Love, has an easy, believable rapport with the 2-year-old who plays his son in the film. For good reason: Isaac is his real-life son. Webber here plays a slightly skewed version of himself, a struggling actor in Los Angeles raising Isaac by himself after his wife dies in a car accident. Isaac and Mark sleep in the same bed, eat mac and cheese together, and give each other Magic Marker tattoos. Mark patiently tries to answer the tot’s barrage of questions: Do you dream about trains? Are you afraid of snakes? Why’s this car so warm? What’s dying?
When Mark takes Isaac to the cemetery (which Isaac knows as “the park with flowers”) and pours out his feelings to his wife’s grave, Isaac squealing in his arms, the scene is heartrending. Meanwhile, Mark is behind on his rent and stalled in his career. At an audition with Amanda Seyfried (Les Misérables), he forces out his lines over the sound of Isaac chattering and crying. “This is so embarrassing,” he whispers. Later, at a party at Michael Cera’s house, surrounded by a cadre of hip, successful comedians like Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza and New Girl ’s Jake Johnson, the desperate Mark lies about landing a part in Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film with Ryan Gosling and James Franco, symbols of the sexy, in-demand career that eludes him. (In reality, Webber has appeared in films including Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and The Hottest State.)
What finally brings Mark down to Earth is Lydia (Shannyn Sossamon, A Knight’s Tale), a single mom with a swingy, chin-length bob who takes an interest in him. Whether the blundering yet sympathetic Mark deserves her love is open to question. (Another question is how much of the film is autobiographical; Webber wrote it after splitting with his son’s mother, who’s still very much alive.) Full of raw and confessional feeling, The End of Love moves slowly yet affectingly. Its listless pace adds to its sense of real, unfiltered life.