Sundance 2012: ‘The End of Love’ asks how lives and dreams fall through the cracks

The End Of Love

Directed by Mark Webber

Written by Mark Webber

2012, USA

In The End of Love director and actor Mark Webber creates a reality steeped in grief. At the center of the story is Mark (played by Webber) who has become a full time dad in the face of his girlfriend’s untimely death. His love and affection for his son, played by Webber’s real life toddler feels genuine. This is a film that is improvised but has the feel of a written script in that the dialogue is often very compact, funny and poignant. Perhaps there isn’t anything that could be written for a child of this age that wouldn’t feel forced or counterfeit. Webber and son’s back and force wavers between love and frustration. The character has no one to share this burden or joy with.

It’s the desperation that stems out of this that nearly causes a breakdown every time he tries to intimately encounter women. In a local woman (Jocelin Donahue) who runs an indoor playground for small children, he finds a friend but is obviously looking rather intensely at her as a potential new partner and mother for his son. It is captivating, refreshing and at the same time distressing to witness this man’s want for immediate connection and commitment. His is in over his head so deeply that the overall atmosphere of the story gives the impression that whatever time he has with other adults as seen with friends and potential lovers, must be lived to the fullest.

As a consequence of devoting so much time to his child, Mark cannot find work as an actor as he once did. The slightest setback (like an exorbitant towing fee) is devastating to his little family’s financial stability. An appearance by Michael Cera (playing himself) throws the audience a little bit out of the story as we go to a party at his luxurious house that overlooks L.A. We see how differently people in the same business can exist and remain ignorant of what is going on in each other’s lives. This is not necessarily a bad detour in the film as it provides more context for Mark (both the real one and the imaginary). Perhaps too having a couple of more famous personalities involved in the process helped market this story that’s built almost solely around the interactions of a dad and his baby. The implication is that amongst such Hollywood wealth and lives still tied to dreams of fame, Mark and his son are on the verge of homelessness. How do people like Mark and his son fall through the cracks? Many people are too embarrased and shamed by their situation to ask for help and many people are too self concerned to give it. The real Mark Webber was apparently homeless when he was a child and so this is an issue very close to the core of who he was, has become and the security he wants for families like his own.

Webber’s acting is subtle at times and nearly explosive near the end of the film. He succeeds in conveying a man whose whole self is tied to fatherhood but lives without a means of giving the real protection and comfort he truly wants to give. The most aching part of this story is that his son, his almost constant companion, does not yet understand the fundamental concept of death. Just beneath the surface there is hope but Webber wants us to understand how good people can end up isolated and on the fringes of society.

Lane Scarberry

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