'Enduring Love' explores obsession
A different kind of love triangle is explored in this hard-hitting drama.
Rated R for language, some violence and a disturbing image; 100 minutes.
Opening today at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.
As the title suggests, "Enduring Love" is a painfully direct drama that asks how two people's love can survive when faced with tragedy and trauma.
But there's a double meaning to the title, as Joe Penhall's intense script (adapting Ian McEwen's novel) explores what can happen to someone on the receiving end of unrequited love - from someone who won't take "no" for an answer.
Joe (Daniel Craig) is a college professor, and Claire (Samantha Morton) is a sculptor. They are enjoying a picnic in an English meadow when a hot-air balloon suddenly crashes nearby. Joe, along with others in the vicinity, try to keep the gondola grounded and rescue a teen-age boy inside. But Joe and the others let go as the balloon ascends, except for one man who dangles from the tow rope until eventually falling to his death.
As Joe tries to cope with the man's death, and the guilt of letting go of the gondola, he gets a call from another rescuer, Jed (Rhys Ifans). Jed is intent on meeting with Joe, because he believes "something has passed between them." Joe indulges Jed, thinking he needs the meeting to complete his grieving process. But Jed wants more from Joe - and, like Glenn Close's character in "Fatal Attraction," he will not be denied.
"Enduring Love" is an actor's movie, and the three leads give shatteringly honest performances. Craig captures the schism in Joe, a professor who has spent a career intellectualizing love only to be confronted by passion that can't be explained scientifically. Morton combines Claire's vulnerability and strength (a combination at which she excels), as she did in "Minority Report" and "In America." And Ifans, with his shaggy demeanor and puppy-dog eyes, finds the little-boy-lost quality in the semi-psychotic Jed.
The performances are so strong that they survive the overwrought direction of Roger Michell (who directed Craig in "The Mother" and Ifans in "Notting Hill"). Michell lays the melodrama on thick in places, and gooses it with a swelling score by Jeffrey Sams.
But "Enduring Love," with its great acting and its profound exploration on the mysteries of love, is engrossing from its heart-wrenching beginning to its shocking conclusion.