The Two Faces of January (film)

The Two Faces of January is a 2014 American-British-French thriller film written and directed by Hossein Amini, in his directorial debut. It is based on Patricia Highsmith's 1964 novel The Two Faces of January and stars Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac.

The Two Faces of January
Theatrical release poster
Directed byHossein Amini
Produced by
Screenplay byHossein Amini
Based onThe Two Faces of January
by Patricia Highsmith
Music byAlberto Iglesias
Edited by
Distributed by
Release date
  • February 11, 2014 (2014-02-11) (Berlin)
  • April 16, 2014 (2014-04-16) (United Kingdom)
  • August 28, 2014 (2014-08-28) (United States[1])
Running time
97 minutes[2]
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • France
Box office$4.5 million[3]

Filming took place on location in Greece and Turkey, and at Ealing Studios. It premiered in February 2014 in the Berlinale Special Galas section of the 64th Berlin International Film Festival.[4]


In 1962, con man Chester MacFarland and his wife Colette tour Greece and visit the Acropolis of Athens. There, they meet Rydal Keener who scams tourists while working as a tour guide. The MacFarlands discover that Rydal is an American and invite him to dinner. Rydal, intrigued by the couple's wealth and Colette's beauty, accepts their invitation and brings along a girlfriend.[5]

Colette likes Rydal but Chester does not trust him. After dinner, they part but Rydal goes back to their hotel to return a bracelet that Colette left in their shared taxi. Meanwhile, a private detective hired by victims of Chester's investment swindles goes to the MacFarlands' hotel room and demands that Chester repay their money. The detective pulls a gun and Chester kills him by accident in a brief struggle when the detective falls and hits his head. While Chester is trying to stow the body in the detective's hotel room, Rydal finds him in the corridor. Chester asks Rydal for his help, pretending that he found the detective drunk and unconscious in the lobby. When the two of them try to get the dead detective's body into his hotel room, they are seen by an elderly couple who think that Chester and Rydal are only trying to help a drunk man to get into his hotelroom and so they give them a friendly "Good evening!" In their panic, Colette and Chester hastily pack their suitcases and leave the hotel, without checking out. They also leave their passports behind at the hotel front desk.

Rydal takes the MacFarlands to see a friend who can furnish false passports to replace those they left at the hotel. He suggests waiting for the counterfeit documents in Crete. In the capital city Iraklion, they cannot check into a hotel without identification papers and so they spend the evening at a restaurant where Chester gets drunk while watching Rydal and Colette dance and grow close and they all sleep the night on the quayside. Next morning, they travel by bus to Chania where Colette visits Rydal's room while her husband sleeps; it is left ambiguous as to whether they have sex. On the way back to Iraklion, Colette believes someone has recognized her from newspaper pictures of the Americans who fled the hotel in Athens and runs off the bus at a stop. Chester and Rydal follow and together they walk to the ruins of Knossos.

It begins to rain and they seek shelter. Chester lures Rydal into an underground labyrinth and knocks him out. As Chester emerges alone from the labyrinth, Colette assumes that he has killed Rydal. She then refuses to go any further with Chester telling him that this is no way to live, fleeing from one part of the world to another, always afraid that they will be found out by the police, especially now two people have been murdered. Chester tries to force her, grabbing her arm, but as she struggles, she loses her balance and falls down the wall that the stairs are built on. Chester rushes down to her but she is dead. He takes her in his arms and cries out in grief.

When Rydal comes to in the morning, he discovers Colette's dead body and while leaving, is seen by a group of students and their guide. He also discovers Chester's coat, hat and sunglasses and puts them on. Chester has rushed to Iraklion to pick up the passports paying Rydal's friend $2,500. Rydal arrives in Knossos and tracks down Chester. The two realize that they are bound together by the detective's death, the acquisition of false passports and Colette's death. If either is arrested, he will implicate the other.

As they take the ship back to Athens, they have a conversation while standing at a railing, looking out over the sea. Chester offers Rydal $10,000 to keep him quiet. Rydal then reveals that he "never wanted Chester's money. He wanted Chester's wife." Chester grabs him by the throat and nearly pushes Rydal overboard telling him to never talk about his wife again.

After arriving in Athens, they go to the airport, where Chester pretends to buy them both tickets to Frankfurt. He says he is going for a drink and boards a plane to Istanbul leaving Rydal with a suitcase containing documents that will tie him to Colette. Rydal realizes that Chester has probably reported him to the police anonymously and he flees the airport and appears to have escaped the police.

Rydal locates Chester in Istanbul and demands a meeting in the Grand Bazaar threatening to go to the police unless Chester pays him off. In fact, Rydal has been arrested. The authorities have made him wear a wire and expect him to extract a confession from Chester. At their rendezvous, Rydal's insistent questioning makes Chester suspicious. Sensing a trap, he flees and a chase through the dark ensues with both Chester and Rydal fleeing the police. A policeman shoots Chester who, as he lies dying, speaks into Rydal's wire tap admitting responsibility for the two deaths and exonerating Rydal. After Rydal is released, he asks the police where Chester will be buried. They answer that as they haven't been able to trace any next of kin, Chester will be buried in Istanbul. When they ask Rydal why he wants to know, Rydal answers: "I thought I'd go to his funeral". When he visits Chester's grave, he buries Colette's bracelet there at the tombstone.



Hossein Amini wrote the screenplay, which also marks his directorial debut; Amini said he had wanted to direct a film adaptation of the novel for the past 15 years. Amini's screenplay is based on the 1964 novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith. He wrote:

What I love about Highsmith is the way that she puts us in the shoes of traditionally 'unlikeable' characters, often criminals, and then makes us not only understand their motivations but recognize something of ourselves in them... It was this type of connection that drew me to Chester MacFarland,... a jealous, alcoholic conman who is nevertheless a deeply tragic figure. His journey of murder, flight and redemption made him an unforgettable character for me and one of the main reasons I wanted to turn the novel into a film.

Producer Tom Sternberg optioned the rights to the novel and originally set up a project with the production company Mirage. Sternberg developed the project with Amini and it found the backing by StudioCanal and Working Title.[6]

Principal photography began August 2012 in Athens, Crete, Istanbul, and London's Ealing Studios.[7] Identifiable locations include the Küçük Hasan mosque on Chania harbour, a nearby café and the Grand Arsenal in Plateia Katehaki, the ruins of Knossos near Iraklion, and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.[8]


StudioCanal distributed the film in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, and New Zealand, and Universal Studios distributed it in Spain and Scandinavia; the latter sold distribution rights for other territories.[7] Entertainment One acquired rights for Canada. Magnolia Pictures picked up distribution rights for the United States and released the film via VOD on August 28, 2014, to be followed by a theatrical release on October 3, 2014.[9][10][11]


The Two Faces of January received mostly positive reviews; it currently holds an 82% rating based on 105 reviews on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus states: "With striking visuals, complex characters, and Hitchcockian plot twists, The Two Faces of January offers a pleasantly pungent treat for fans of romantic thrillers."[12] On Metacritic, the film has a 66/100 rating from 30 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[13] Peter DeBruge of Variety wrote that Amini "expertly blends touches of Hitchcock and Highsmith".[14] In comparing it to The Talented Mr. Ripley, Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter said that it lacks the "joie de vivre" of that film, but has lush cinematography and shows Amini's "skill at working with actors".[15] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote, "Mr. Amini adds embellishing details and plot layers, hints at a grave Oedipal disturbance, turns up the sexual heat and smoothly increases the narrative torque."[16] Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "As was the case in the book, there are moves that don't always make sense, but the game-playing is riveting."[17]

See also


  1. "The Two Faces of January". Magnolia Pictures. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
  2. "THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. January 27, 2014. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  3. "The Two Faces of January (2014) - International Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  4. "Berlinale Special 2014". berlinale. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
  5. Staff (October 4, 2012). "First Still From The Two Faces of January". Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  6. Hopewell, John; Keslassy, Elsa (July 11, 2012). "Kirsten Dunst joins 'Two Faces of January'". Variety.
  7. Goodfellow, Melanie (August 31, 2012). "The Two Faces of January starts shooting". Screen Daily.
  8. js, Rhiannon Edwards 3:15PM BST 01 May 2014 Follow !function{var (May 1, 2014). "The Two Faces of January: ancient ruins are the real stars".
  9. "The Two Faces of January". Magnolia Pictures. March 25, 2014.
  10. Vlessing, Etan (March 25, 2014). "Phase 4 Films Takes 'The Two Faces of January' For Canada". The Hollywood Reporter.
  11. "Two Faces of January". Magnolia Pictures.
  12. "The Two Faces of January". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  13. "The Two Faces of January". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  14. DeBruge, Peter (February 14, 2014). "Berlin Film Review: 'The Two Faces of January'". Variety. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  15. Young, Deborah (February 11, 2014). "The Two Faces of January: Berlin Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  16. Dargis, Manohla (September 25, 2014). "A Tour Guide Goes Above and Beyond". The New York Times. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  17. Sharkey, Betsy (September 25, 2014). "Review 'Two Faces of January' a twisted tale driven by talented trio". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
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