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film review

Amanda Knox bows her head during a television interview on January 31, 2014 in New York.Mark Lennihan/The Associated Press

The complicated filmmaker Michael Winterbottom is at his elusive worst with The Face of an Angel, a ponderous fictionalized take on the 2007 murder of a British student in Italy, allegedly by her American roommate, Amanda Knox.

Winterbottom is not out to thrill, but to lecture on the truth, which, he believes, can only be found in fiction.

A vacant Daniel Bruhl stars as a filmmaker – standing in for Winterbottom – attempting to make sense out of the notorious trial. Bruhl, the actor, struggles under the weight of the script's sanctimony; in his role he sulks in a scenic Italian city and sleeps with Kate Beckinsale's forgettable journalist character.

"There are too many angles," he despairs, about the trial, but he could easily be talking about the film.

Winterbottom settles on an angle that is commendable but much too tight: That the case's real casualty is the truth, and that the victim was forgotten.

Is his tribute to the latter mawkishly done? Is his sympathy for the filmmaker self-serving? We find the defendant guilty.