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Enduring Love

March 27, 2012

Enduring Love (2004)
Director: Roger Michell
Actors: Daniel Craig, Rhys Ifans, Samantha Morton

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Synopsis: London academic, Joe (Daniel Craig), and his girlfriend Claire (Samantha Morton), witness a surreal and tragic hot-air balloon accident while picnicking on the outskirts of Oxford. For the days and weeks after the incident, Joe is plagued by his own conscience, as well as the attentions of a fellow witness of the tragedy, Jed (Rhys Ifans).

Review: If you pick beneath the bones of this deceptively slim and generic thriller, there is actually a lot of intellectual meat to tuck in to – perhaps not surprising given that the source material is a novel from brilliant British writer, Ian McEwan. The novel’s iconic set-piece – the hot-air balloon tragedy that kicks off the narrative – is tailor-made for cinema, and director Roger Michell finds a way of not simply filming the gripping action that unfolds, but documenting it in such a surreal, uncanny way that hints at the psychological refuse it will cause in its main character to come.

Of course, the use of a large, red hot-air balloon is a seemingly blatant metaphoric and literary device, but the end-effect is actually much more elusive and poignant. What I think the film offers is a treatise on a classically rational man – Daniel Craig’s Joe (who even symbolically lectures in a purely scientific basis on all manner of abstract concepts, such as ‘love’). By having Joe privy to this hot-air balloon accident where he is literally lifted off his feet and made witness to an unconscionable tragedy, then subsequently stalked by a devout, ‘romantic’ zealot like Jed (Rhys Ifans), the film places him in a seeming crisis of conscience over his atheistic nihilism. Where the film is doubly-clever though, is that it tricks Joe (and the audience?) into believing that Jed is harmless and perhaps even a figment of his imagination, a means (along with his sculptress girlfriend’s continual chidings) to kick him out of his cynical ways. But much like in the great Don’t Look Now where Donald Sutherland’s grieving architect refuses to believe in the occult gift of foresight he possesses and is punished with a late twist and tragedy, so Joe only ‘sees’ until almost too late the reality of the threat Jed poses to him and his girlfriend. (March 2012)

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