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Enduring Love (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director’s commentary. Audio description. 'Burst' short film. Balloon featurette. The Actor’s Story featurette. The film and novel featurette. Deleted scenes. Trailer. TV spots.

ROGER Michell is not really a director who sticks to formula, even when working within established genres.

His last film, The Mother, depicted a mature relationship in a graphic, sometimes unflinching manner, rather than opting for the Hollywood/Mrs Robinson approach to its story, and likewise, his urban thriller, Changing Lanes, excelled by refusing to allow the audience a clear hero to identify with, pulling viewers' emotions this way and that.

And so we come to Enduring Love, a psychological thriller cum philosophical debate on romance, that benefits greatly from the Michell touch. Based on the popular novel by Ian McEwan, and adapted by Joe Penhall, the film could so easily have fallen into a cliched stalker piece, or run-of-the-mill romantic thriller, but instead opts for a more intelligent and surprising approach.

The film hooks you from the outset, as intellectual couple, Joe and Claire (Daniel Craig and Samantha Morton) prepare to have an idyllic picnic (at which Joe intends to propose), only to have it ruined by an out-of-control hot air balloon, which drifts past them with a helpless child on board.

Joe rushes to help, as do several other passers-by, and almost manages to bring the balloon down, but when it inexorably rises once more, all but one of the rescuers is forced to let go, leaving the lone hero to eventually plunge to his death.

The sequence in question is filmed with a haunting intensity that grips the viewer just as intensely as it does its protagonists, prompting Joe, in particular, to question who let go first, or whether he contributed to the hero's death in some way.

As his insecurities grow, Joe begins to obsess about the accident and life in general, using his role as a university lecturer on love and ethics to question the validity of both and threatening to alienate Claire in the process.

What's more, he cannot seem to get rid of the unwanted attentions of a fellow rescuer, in the form of Rhys Ifans' Jed, who begins to stalk him, and who has convinced himself that the accident was a sign from God that brought the two men together.

Much of the enjoyment in watching Michell's film unfold lies in pondering the questions that the film consistently raises. The title, alone, can be viewed in one of two ways - either optimistically, or pessimistically, depending on your persuasion. For Joe, in particular, his relationship post balloon incident is one that he has to endure.

Likewise, the film offers a tantalising glimpse of how quickly a life can change, or be taken, and just how far a person might go to save someone else depending on the cost to themselves.

If there is a weakness, it's that the film almost becomes a little too bogged down by such philosophising, threatening to alienate the audience from Joe, who becomes as isolated from them as he does Claire.

But thanks to some astute pacing, and a genuinely shocking conclusion, which jolts Joe back to life, Enduring Love finishes as strongly as it began, to emerge as one of the most gripping British thrillers of the year.

What's more, it boasts another terrific lead turn from Craig (following Layer Cake), and a genuinely creepy performance from Ifans, who really does unsettle viewers late-on.

A strong support cast, including the ever-excellent Bill Nighy, should also ensure that the film gets the big audience it deserves, for this is undoubtedly a thriller to quicken the heartbeat while also engaging the brain. It makes for exemplary viewing.

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