Sundance 2012 Review: Learn About Love and Loss with Mark Webber’s Affecting ‘The End of Love’

By  · Published on January 30th, 2012

It is hard enough to be a single father, but when you are trying to juggle those responsibilities along with pursuing your dream of being an actor, things are made all the more complicated. The End of Love opens with Mark (Mark Webber) and his son, Isaac (played by Webber’s real-life son), waking up. The camera focuses in on Isaac and sets up the focus of the film on the little boy in the first few frames. As Mark and Isaac start their day, the absence of a mother (or a partner) in Mark’s life becomes clear, with Mark having to take Isaac with him on a big audition.

While the casting director seems understanding about Isaac’s presence in the room, the actress Mark is reading against, Amanda Seyfried (playing herself), seems less than pleased and it quickly becomes clear that Mark’s dreams of becoming an actor may be over. Losing roles no longer just means Mark may not get a good part, it means he is losing money to support himself and Isaac. Although Mark lives with two roommates (who seem more than understanding about living with a two-year-old), he is not pulling his weight in rent, which sends Mark asking one of his friends (yet another “cameo” by Jason Ritter) for help.

After stopping at a kid’s play place, Mark meets the owner, Lydia (Shannyn Sossamon), and the two seem to hit it off, bonding over their kids. As the narrative winds on, it becomes clear that both Mark and Isaac are missing something. Mark is longing for affection while Isaac is longing for a mother. While on a “date” with Lydia, as soon as things start to escalate, Mark begins telling her he loves her. The same thing happens while hooking up with one of his exes as a party. Although intoxicated each time, we start to realize that Mark is desperate for affection. Isaac, on the other hand, starts calling Lydia “mommy” and when Mark buys him a goldfish, Isaac settles on the name “mommy” for the fish as well.

When Mark’s money troubles have him facing eviction, he seems to hit rock bottom and in what seems like a cruel moment of inflicting the pain he is feeling on an innocent creature, Mark turns it into an opportunity to teach Isaac about the difference between life and death and how it will always affect their life. With The End of Love, Webber creates a moving story of what it means to live after loss and how even in the face of such a tragedy, you must keep moving forward and hopefully learn something in the process.

The Upside: Since Webber and Isaac are actually father and son, their comfortable rapport shines on screen and while Webber turns in a strong performance here, it is Isaac who steals all the scenes he is in whether he is talking or simply looking at the camera with his big blue eyes.

The Downside: The slightly random “Hollywood” party Mark attends seemed out of place and the actors and actresses that filled it (including Michael Cera, Aubrey Plaza, and Sarah Ramos) were distracting and did not seem to fit the otherwise solemn feeling of the story.

On the Side: The home video footage of a younger Isaac and his mom called back on a happier time and not only gave us a glimpse into their life before her accident, but also showed how Mark may not have been fully ready to be a dad. If Isaac’s birth didn’t push him to grow up, having to now raise Isaac on his own certainly did.

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Snuggle up with the rest of our Sundance 2012 coverage