Eye For Film >> Movies >> Enduring Love (2004) Film Review
Reviewed by: Gary Duncan
This dark tale of unrequited love, adapted from the novel by Ian McEwan, starts off innocently in the bright sunshine of the English countryside, with Joe (Daniel Craig) and his girlfriend Claire (Samantha Morton) enjoying a romantic picnic. It's summer, they're in love and Joe is about to propose, but McEwan isn't the kind of writer to let them walk off hand in hand into the sunset.
Even before Joe can pop the champagne, the tranquillity of their summer idyll is shattered when a hot air balloon crashes nearby. He and three other eyewitnesses - a young man called Jed (Rhys Ifans), a doctor and a farmer - grab the basket and bring it to a standstill, but a sudden gust of wind sends it skywards. Joe, Jed and the farmer let go but the doctor hangs on as the balloon drifts off. The others watch in silence as the doctor falls to his death.
It's an incongruous opening - the violence of the doctor's death set against the backdrop of a lazy summer's day - but for college lecturer Joe it's just the beginning of a downward spiral that threatens to destroy his comfortable middle-class existence. Jed calls him the next day. He's still in shock and wants to meet up, but Joe pretends he's busy. Jed insists and a bemused Joe eventually agrees to see him. It's soon apparent, however, that Jed has his own agenda - he casually tells Joe he loves him and that the balloon accident was fate's way of bringing them together.
Ifans has made a career out of playing nutcases and the doe-eyed, greasy-haired Jed is no exception. He looks like a spaced out student who hasn't washed for a week and there's an innocence in his slavish devotion to Joe, even when he's standing outside Joe and Claire's apartment in the middle of the night in the pouring rain. But you know he could flip any second - you'd give him a wide berth if you saw him on the subway.
Joe tries to laugh him off at first - Jed professes his undying love for him but Joe can't even remember his name. Craig, last seen as a scheming dope dealer in Layer Cake, is utterly convincing as the innocent caught up in something he can't control. You feel for Joe as he struggles to overcome his guilt after the accident - maybe the doctor would have lived if they'd all held on a little longer - and tries to make sense of Jed's increasingly desperate attempts to make him love him.
At the same time, there's more than a hint of schadenfreude - maybe it's about time this smug, Guardian-reading intellectual got his comeuppance. Joe lectures at a trendy college, lives in a converted loft apartment and meets smarmy TV producers for lunch at fashionable South Bank eateries. He drinks too much wine at dinner parties, snaps at Claire in front of her friends and pontificates about the meaning of love. A good kicking, maybe that's what he needs.
This works best, however, when the violence is threatened, not real. We know something's got to give, that Joe or Jed will crack sooner or later. When they do, it's worth the wait.Reviewed on: 13 Nov 2004