Enduring Love

At the beginning of Enduring Love, a couple, Joe and Claire, are having a picnic in an idyllic open field. They are obviously fond of each other, and are cherishing this moment along. All of a sudden, a hot air balloon comes careening through the field. A child is trapped inside, and the balloon does not have enough lift to rise into the air. Joe (Daniel Craig, The Mother, Sylvia) and a few other men run over to help. A gust of wind lifts the balloon higher, before everybody can get to safety. The kid pulls the wrong level, and the balloon rises into the air. One by one, the men let go. One man hangs on too late, and plummets to his death. Enduring Love grabs audiences from the beginning, with a slickly filmed sequence showing the panic that everybody feels. When its over, one of the men, Jed (Rhys Ifans, Vanity Fair, Danny Deckchair) asks Joe to pray with him. Joe is not religiously, but reluctantly agrees.

This movie belongs to Ifans. Everybody first noticed him in Notting Hill, but he has made it a habit of picking a diverse number of roles. For whatever reason, his recent films had higher profiles, spotlighting his acting ability. He was surprisingly good leading man in Danny Deckchair, and now as Jed, he is convincingly psychotic. Joe Penhall (Some Voices) adapted Ian McEwan's novel, about how this accident affects Joe, Jed, and Claire. Joe leaves feeling guilty. If everybody held on longer, nobody would have died. He believes their weight was enough to bring the balloon back to earth. Instead, he is wracked with guilt over his own actions. Could he have done something to prevent a death? This obsessive desire for self-flagellation makes him emotionally distant, and strains his relationship with Claire (Samantha Morton, Code 46, In America). She realizes he did all he could, and wants him to move on.

Perhaps he could, if not for the sudden reappearance of Jed, who wants to talk about the accident. Ifans' hair is a long and unkempt, and he sports a few days worth of stubble. He wears old clothes, and obviously looks like something is wrong with him. Joe humors him, then they part ways. Then Jed appears again. And again. Joe thinks it is funny, but then Jed becomes increasingly agitated and violent around him. Ifans' is great. His portrayal of Jed is over-the-top loony. He is stalking Joe, and when Joe tries to tell the people around him, he is the one that seems crazy. Jed looks like he is truly in pain about something, and while he wants to tell Joe, he never does. Director Roger Mitchell (The Mother, Changing Lanes) slowly ratchets up the tension, with every encounter between Joe and Jed a little more dangerous.

All of this clearly disturbs Joe, and places further strain on his relationship with Claire. This part plays out less convincingly. Claire is an artist, who does busts of people. She refrains from doing a bust of Joe, because she loves him. Sculpting him would mean examining him from a detached point of view, and she doesn't want to do this. So when he finally does find a bust of him, it means their relationship is over. Morton is a great actor, but like some of her other films, she simply does not have much to do. This movie belongs to Ifans and Craig, who both give jarring performances. Jed's actions are enough to make Joe do things he would never consider, which leads to a fairly violent ending. It does not quite fit in with the rest of Enduring Love (note the title has two meanings), but watching the two go at it is more than enough.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 41 minutes, Rated R for language, some violent images, and brief nudity.

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