Enduring Love (2004) / Drama

MPAA Rated: R for language, sexuality, some violence, and a disturbing scene
Running Time: 100 min.

Cast: Daniel Craig, Samantha Morton, Rhys Ifans, Bill Nighy, Susan Lynch,  Lee Sheward,
Director: Roger Michell
Screenplay: Joe Penhall (based on the novel by Ian McEwan)
Review published May 30, 2005

In Roger Ebert's Glossary of Movie Terms, which comes from his annual movie guide, "Roger Ebert's Video Companion", he lists a term called the Balloon Rule, which states, "Good movies rarely contain a hot-air balloon."  Although one could cite a few examples here and there that contradict this rule (Wizard of Oz is perhaps the most popular), I wouldn't cite Enduring Love as one of those exceptions, although it is ironic that Ebert, the man who has pushed forward this rule for so many years, would contradict it by giving this film the "thumbs up".

Just when you think that the Fatal Attraction rip-offs have all but cycled themselves out, someone out there will conceive of a new ripple in the oft-told story to bring it trotting back to the big screen.  Granted, Enduring Love isn't a thriller in the conventional sense, as it is far more philosophical in its approach than others have been in the past, but that doesn't stop director Roger Michell (Notting Hill) from directing this piece as if it were revealing earth-shattering emotions that all should pay heed to.  Alas, such is not the case, as we can hardly understand just what the motivation of anyone is, other than the fact that they all need lives, or at the very least, to try to do something, anything, with the ones they already have to make them worth watching for almost two hours.

Joe (Craig, Road to Perdition) and Claire (Morton, In America) are a loving couple out enjoying a picnic out in the country on one of the finest days of the year.  Tragedy strikes when a boy is trapped on a runaway hot air balloon, which calls to action many of the men in the area, including Joe, to hang onto the balloon to keep it from flying away again.  A strong gust forces the issue, causing all of the men to let go and land safely, save one, who would end up letting go too late and dying upon impact.  Later, Joe still cannot shake the image of the man's fall out of his head, continuously re-enacting the scene in his mind, wondering if there were some way the man could have been saved.  Meanwhile, Joe is also constantly running into Jed (Ifans, Formula 51), one of the men who was there that day helping, and who seems to have not been able to let go of the events of that day himself.  Jed seems to feel that there has been a connection forged between the two men that is stronger than both of them can understand, and he is determined to see that that connection becomes a permanent one.

Adapted from the novel by Ian McEwan, Enduring Love brings back similar feelings I had while watching another film by Roger Michell, Changing Lanes.  Both films have smart dialogue and intriguing moral dilemmas that play out in somber fashion, but they are continuously undone by heavy-handed plotting and an ever-increasing escalation of pitch into the realm of the absurd.  Had this been solely about the principles that pushes forth feelings of emotional connections by one party that aren't there in the other, which sets the relationship to one of stalking, this might have been an interesting character study worth noting.  Unfortunately, this type of movie isn't really what Michell is striving to make, as he turns up the fatalistic music and short-attention span cutting to seem like this is a riveting thriller in the mode of Se7en, which featured similar themes of envy and misguided betrayal.

While the tone and plotting leave much to be desired, Enduring Love does benefit from some strong performances by the leads, so if you're a big fan, perhaps you may find this worth your while.  It may not really strike as deep a chord as Michell seems to be going for, but the contemplative nature of the film does offer some occasional food for thought, and as long as the film stays within modest boundaries, it manages to score some points.  If only Michell didn't have to swing for the fences and go for the riveting finale, which threatens to unravel all that the story had built up to that point, with a silly story of obsession that causes every single character of the movie to act in a way that no one would ever act in reality, merely for the contrivance of making this a thriller.  It's not a total waste, but it could have been so much better, Enduring love isn't as much of a chore as enduring Enduring Love proves to be.

Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo