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Enduring Love (2004)

Directed by:

Roger Michell

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 96 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom

Director Roger Michell is best known for the fluffy fantasy of ‘Notting Hill’ (1999), targetted directly at an American market and presenting a view of London life whose only link to reality was the place names – but since then he has elaborated a much darker vision of romance in Britain’s capital, first in the Hanif Kureshi-scripted taboo-breaker The Mother (2003), and now in ‘Enduring Love’, starring Daniel Craig (who also featured in The Mother) and Rhys Ifans (here a million miles away from the comedy of ‘Notting Hill’).

A perfect summer’s day, a perfect champagne picnic in a meadow – but just as science lecturer Joe (Daniel Craig) is about to pop the question to his girlfriend Claire (Samantha Morton), the peace is interrupted by an out-of-control balloon, and in the rushed confusion of the ensuing rescue attempt, a man falls to his death. Joe blames himself for what has happened, and his increasingly unhealthy obsession with the event alienates him from Claire. Meanwhile Jed (Rhys Ifans), another man who was at the scene, keeps turning up, only adding to Joe’s deranged sense of guilt. Jed, however, is driven by his own, rather different obsession…

In deciding to adapt Ian McEwan’s 1997 novel ‘Enduring Love’ for the big screen, scriptwriter Joe Penhall risked forever being stalked by the book’s legions of adoring fans, not least for the many changes in detail and emphasis he had made to the source material. Characters have been significantly altered, like the sculptor Claire (originally a Keats scholar named Clarissa, and far less prominent here than in the book), or else simply invented from scratch, like Joe’s friends Robin (Bill Nighy) and Rachel (Susan Lynch), whose lasting and happy marriage provides a neat counterpoint to Joe’s own damaged situation.

Yet the film remains true to McEwan’s intellectual preoccupations with different kinds of love, and has lost none of the novel’s most memorable elements: the plays on the ambiguity of the title, the arresting first scene, and the strange dynamics of the relationship between Joe and Jed. What is more, the film brings a vivid immediacy to events which goes beyond anything on the written page, be it the face-to-face drama of Jed’s dialogues with Joe (conducted in the novel mostly through letters and phone-calls), or the occasional brilliant reds (the balloon, blood, etc.) that flash from the film’s otherwise subdued palette, signifying all at once eroticism, danger and passion with a visual economy reminiscent of the colour-codings of Zhang Yimou.

‘Enduring Love’ is a meditation on love structured as a thriller, so that its more exploratory ideas always remain focussed by the tautness of the narrative.Yet while an eerie blue-lit scene in a public pool alludes to John Polson’s more conventional SwimFan (2002), for the most part ‘Enduring Love’ avoids the clichés of the thriller genre – at least, that is, until an unnecessary coda which suggests, somewhat absurdly, that love may endure even as far as a sequel. Avoid this by turning off as soon as the end credits start rolling, and you are in for an unusual and intelligent film about the outer limits of obsession.

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It's Got: A vividly spectacular ballooning accident; fine performances; beautifully crisp cinematography.

It Needs: To lose its silly genre-bound coda.

DVD Extras Scene selection; optional subtitles for the hearing impaired/audio description for the sight impaired; full audio commentary by director Roger Michell and producer Kevin Loader on how a fifth of the shooting schedule was absorbed by the four-minute opening, on changes made to the novel in the screenplay and changes made to the screenplay during the shoot, and on the hope that one particular shot "could make Y-fronts fashionable again"; five deleted scenes (7min), including one where Joe reports the stalking to a jaded desk sergeant who assumes he is gay; Burst (6min), hilarious Michell mockumentary from 2004 about the shallow and fragile nature of celebrity, featuring most of the cast from Enduring Love; The Actors Story (7min) featuring interviews with Michell, Loader, screenwriter Joe Penhall, and actors Rhys Ifans, Daniel Craig, Samantha Morton and Bill Nighy; The Film and the Novel (5min) featuring interviews with Michell, Loader and Penhall on the challenges of adaptation, and Ian McEwan declaring "making a novel into a script is basically a demolition job... its not simply sentences turned into shots"; Balloon featurette (5min) on location at the balloon sequence shoot, featuring interviews with Michell, Nighy and Loader; theatrical trailer; two TV spots. Version reviewed: Pathé, Catalogue no. P9150 DVD also available Enduring Love - Amazon.com DVD Extras Rating: 9/10

Alternatives:

21 Grams, SwimFan

Summary

A tale of obsession with less hot air than your average thriller.

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