From a 9.11.14 Toronto Film Festival review by Indiewire‘s Kevin Jagernauth: “With a premise based on the salacious murder trial of Amanda Knox, the most curious aspect of Michael Winterbottom‘s The Face Of An Angel is that it’s not about the case at all. Instead, the filmmaker takes a self-indulgent approach, reorienting the project to tell the story of a director (Daniel Bruhl) researching and writing a movie about the sensational crime and who promptly begins to spiral out of control the more he keeps digging for the truth. A mismatch of genres, coupled with a pretentious attitude regarding the art of moviemaking, this film strains for significance, referencing Dante in the same breath as Knox.
Winterbottom’s film will open later this month in England, and on 6.30 in the States. Almost four months from now? We’re living through a dull, dispiriting season. It should appear concurrent with the British release.
“Shot by Hubert Taczanowski (The Look Of Love, The Opposite Of Sex), the film is visually lifeless, [using] a grimy visual palette that matches Bruhl’s perma-sour demeanor. And the overall tone never coheres, partially due to the shifting nature of the triptych-ish structure. The film’s auntish indictment of tabloid culture is tedious, and as a portrait of an artist grappling with truth and his own personal demons, Thomas just isn’t all that interesting. He’s his own worst enemy, and it’s hard to care about what he’s going through if he doesn’t either.
From IMDB commenter Christopher Reynolds: “This film takes a real-life murder case and turns it into a version of Spike Jonze’s Adaptation, focusing on a director-screenwriter (Bruhl) and his attempt to adapt the events into the film we’re watching.
“This creates two problems. Firstly, focusing on Bruhl removes the murder case to the status of a background event yet the film tries to have its cake and eat it by having Thomas do an investigation into the truth behind the murder. This aspect is impossible to care about and really half-baked. The investigation goes nowhere and eventually just gets dropped. Secondly, it injects an air of self-satisfaction into the proceedings, it’s impossible to watch this without feeling that the film is praising itself, with Thomas explaining how he’s going to use the structure of Dante’s Divine Comedy as a model for the screenplay. And despite being talked up and explained endlessly within the film, the Divine Comedy structure barely comes through at all.
“Thomas also comes across as unpleasant and hard to sympathise with, yet of course his talent is praised to the sky by the supporting characters, and he has no trouble bedding Kate Beckinsale and Cara Delevigne’s characters. Despite all of the things going on the film still manages to be incredibly boring and throws in some dream sequence fake-outs in a very irritating attempt to liven things up.”