Janus-faced friendship

This is my review of The Two Faces Of January [DVD].

Charming and assiduous young American tourist guide Rydal, claiming to be fluent in many languages including Greek, is not above fleecing his trusting clients, mostly female, as he shows them round Athens in the early 1960s. In turn, he is intrigued by an American couple, the eye-catching Colette and her much older husband, Chester. Since this tale is based on a book by Patricia Highsmith, a gripping noirish psychological thriller soon develops. Despite his suave appearance and love of old books, Chester’s shady past catches up with him abruptly. The attempts of the three main characters to manage the situation entangle them in a downward spiral of events, compounded by provocation, jealousy and mistrust.

An interesting aspect is the portrayal of travel fifty years ago through a wilder Greece and Crete where it was easier to conceal oneself, and the parts are well-acted. The story may have lost some of the depth of the book which I have not read, but believe contains the idea that Colette reminds Rydal of a former girlfriend. Tense and exciting, the plot shows the characters’ shifting relationships and raises questions as to their motives and feelings.

As is often the way with such dramas, I felt it lost momentum towards a somewhat disappointing ending. It was as if, after a particular climactic event, either the author or the director did not quite know where to go. Overall, it is worth watching.

⭐⭐⭐ 3 Stars

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