Face 2 Face (2018) REVIEW – An Experiment That Doesn’t Entirely Work
Directed by Matt Toronto, Face 2 Face wants to be more than an intriguing execution of its premise. The story concerns two teenagers, Teel (Daniel Amerman) and Madison (Daniela Bobadilla) who pick up a childhood friendship after a number of years. Their relationship rekindles over computer screens and/or phone video chats. This is also how the movie was actually shot by Toronto.
While this isn’t the first movie to use those things for storytelling purposes, this is certainly the first movie to aspire to telling a fairly ambitious story with only those things. Face 2 Face wants to feel natural in every regard, and in every exchange between the kids. While telling an admittedly average story, the movie does utilize its style in a very fluid, consistently believable way. The movie also takes advantage of young actors who contribute a great deal to the film’s consistent tone. In watching the brilliant execution of these things by Toronto, as well as the cast, I was honestly enthralled.
The story itself is a little less thrilling. The movie explores subjects like bullying and depression without trying to talk down to its characters or material. Yet there is something oddly cloying about these kids, and about the way their relationship unfolds. As the movie tries to hit some harder points, things descend into a melodrama that occasionally gets to be cringe-worthy. Both Amerman and Bobadilla make the material work, but we ultimately still have a script that lets them down to a certain extent. It also lets down the fact that this is a movie with more to offer than just a gimmick.
There is a sincere desire on Toronto’s part to discuss common teen subjects with a tone that understands, and wants to present these things in a way that might bring teenagers and parents together. I honestly don’t know if the movie will succeed in that regard.
I do think this movie has at least the potential to generate those sorts of conversations. I also admire Toronto for wanting to create a film that attempts to encourage parents and kids, or others, to talk about some of the things that occur in Face 2 Face. Particularly since he does this without sacrificing the need for a strong story with compelling characters. At least, he understands this. Unfortunately, as mentioned before, his screenplay (co-written with his brother Aaron) doesn’t quite come through on the story and characters. The actors fill in a lot of the blanks, but they can only do so much.
What I can tell you is that Face 2 Face is an experiment that warrants at least a look. Sticking around is entirely your call. However, this could be a good instance of a cast rising above material that perhaps could have used one more polish. As for Matthew and Aaron Toronto, I’m certainly game to see what they do next. There should be enough here to give you that impression, as well.
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