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Man Without a Face

A movie directed by Mel Gibson

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Small town minds tell small town lies

  • Jun 18, 2000
Pros: Wonderful acting and directing

Cons: Small town minds

Basic story line
What an unfitting title for this movie. Mel Gibson plays the part of Justin McLeod, a former school teacher, horribly scarred from an automobile accident. And his face, though disfigured, spoke volumes to those willing to look. When approached by a child in town, for tutoring, Gibson opens his mind and his heart, only to be faced with loss again.

The student has a deep rooted desire to attend the military academy as his father did. His family, a brood of spiteful lonely women, give him much grief about this, telling him he will never achieve that goal. When he approaches Gibson for help, he hides the information from friends and family alike, as Gibson has always been the town freak and the rumor mill is always grinding out its' tainted flour.

Stahl sees past the face and into the man and a great relationship is built. Eventually, the information of how Gibson received his scars comes out, hinting at homosexual overtones with a former student who was killed in the same automobile accident.

One night, due to an argument with his all female household, Stahl goes to Gibson and stays the night. The next day Gibson is accused of abuse and is ostracized from the community.

We find Stahl returning to the empty house, searching the rooms and seeing a letter from Gibson telling him goodbye. (By the way, that is not the ending, so don't think I gave it away)

As in similar works (Message in a Bottle, Phantom of the Opera, etc.), we find a man isolated from his surroundings enmeshed in his own pain-filled void. We also discover, though we are not surprised, the devastation a misspoken word can bring to a person. We see the homophobic, biased, single minded bigotry that swamps this small town and eventually Gibson and Stahl's lives. We learn the time old adage holds true, love can overcome the mighty walls protecting our hearts and souls.

In conclusion
A wonderful and touching performance by Gibson. This was also his directing debut and I believe he picked the right vehicle for it. Though the theme of this story is oft repeated, Gibson gave it a warmth and depth of feeling so as you didn't think you were re-watching the same old movie all over again, just different actors.

Nick Stahl gave a very believable performance as a young boy buried in the single-mindedness of a dysfunctional family buried in a dysfunctional town.

This would make a fine family movie and is worth watching for the ending only.


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Susi Dawson ()
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About this movie


In Mel Gibson's directorial debut, THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE, Chuck Nordstadt (Nick Stahl) has idealized the memory of his deceased fighter pilot father so much that he dreams of one day walking in his footsteps by attending military school. When he fails the entrance exam at his father's alma mater, Chuck asks former teacher Justin McLeod (Mel Gibson), a disfigured recluse living in the coastal village where Chuck and his family are vacationing, to help tutor him. Chuck and McLeod develop a special friendship that helps both to overcome their tragic, difficult pasts.
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Cast: Zach Grenier
Director: Mel Gibson
Release Date: 1993
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: Paradox Entertainment (May 01, 2008)
Runtime: 1hr 55min
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