Enduring Love (Review)

(6 out of 10)
Dir. Roger Michell

Should You See the Film?

Whether you like this movie or not, it will leave you with a lot to talk about, including whether it was good or not. (Then again, some people may not care enough about the film to want to talk about it, but I donít think that applies to most ìidiots.î)

As always, if you plan to see this film, I would avoid reading any reviews or comments about the film, if you havenít already.

Iíd be a bit surprised if anyone here ended up really liking this film. To give you a sense of how I liked the film, let me say that I could have given the film a ì5.î The film did keep my attention, and it intrigued me throughout. So while I wouldnít recommend this film, I will say the film is ambiguous enough that it could be a really a thoughtful provoking and entertaining film or a Hollywood film that pretends to be deep. (Caveat: I donít think I have a firm grasp of the film yet, so I may change my mind after giving the film more thought.) This is the kind of film that you like because it lead to an interesting discussion afterwards.

OK, Iím going to describe the film in greater detail, including revealing the genre of the film, so if you donít want to know anything stop reading.

The film is a thriller that examines love, ethics and other important issues, while creating suspense. Think of films like Se7en or Changing Lanes (the latter directed by Michell as well). In both Enduring Love and Changing Lanes, I liked the idea of raising interesting questions about life within the context of a thriller, but in a way that is not clear or coherent way, giving the impression of someone who is trying to be deep but is really shallow. It is as if the director is intentionally vague to create the impression of conveying complexity, nuance and dept, when these qualities donít really exist in the film.

The film is an adaptation of the novel by Ian McEwan.

Personal Comments

I want to dwell on the opening scene because it raises a lot of questions while presenting some of the most interesting visuals and creating one of the most effective attention-getting openings Iíve ever seen.

There were so many things I liked about the opening sequence: the set-up, progression of the events and the imagesófor example, the shot Joe and Claire picnicking in the middle of a wide-open, grassy field; the sudden appearance of a huge air balloon dragging the basket with a man trailing behind grasping for it moving quickly, and almost silently across the screen; the men hanging on the basket while the balloon takes off; each man letting go of the balloon and dropping to the ground; the shot of a single man hold onto a rope as the balloon rises (which reminded me of the
French film Red Balloon which many of you may have remembered watching in elementary school); the last manís descent back to the ground.)

This whole sequence was visually appealing by itself, but the event and images felt like an allegory to philosophical topics like personal responsibility, ethics, and the inherent interconnectedness between people. Joeís questions about the eventówhether the man could have been saved if he and the others had not let go of the balloon; whether Joe was the first to let go and whether that caused the others to let go as wellóreinforce this idea, as did Jedís appearance with cryptic questions like, ìWhy donít you just say it? We both know what it is. Why do you have to be ashamed?î Add to the mix a protagonist who is a college professor with a French existentialist view of life, and I felt the table was set to be an examination of philosophical issues.

This is the reason the revelation that Jed is truly psychotic, homosexual and the conflict with Jed resolves itself in a rather conventional, Hollywood fashion, makes me feel disappointed.

The ambivalence and dread that Joe feels about the balloon tragedy and his role in it seems to be swept to the side at the end of the film. That leads me to believe several things:

  1. The balloon tragedy was a plot device to draw the audience in initially;
  2. The filmmakers used the episode to create the impression of being intellectually hip by suggesting an exploration of philosophical issues and;
  3. Finally, the event allowed the filmmakers to create an elaborate ruse to throw the audience off the scent of Jed as a conventional Hollywood psychopath.

The balloon tragedy also prevents Joe from asking Claire to marry him, and one could argue that the tragedy served as a test to Joe and Claireís relationshipóalong side Joeís rhetoric about love and its permanence or lack thereof. Joeís anguish over the incident and his manic behavior that ensues because of Jedís harassment seems to be the reason Joe and Claireís relationship falls apart. But Iím still unclear why Joe is distraught about the event. Is it because he wonders if he caused the manís death? If so, the film doesnít seem to resolve this. Instead, Jedís harassment and the way it affects Joeóparticularly the point at which Joe explains the theory behind Jedís behavioróseems to be the primary reason for the disintegration of their relationship. So when we see that Joeís theory is correct, Claire becomes open to Joe. I donít feel like the filmóthrough the arc of Joe and Claireís relationshipósheds any interesting insights into love and its permanence or impermanence. In addition, using the balloon tragedy doesnít move their relationship in any interesting ways.

My position on the reason for using the balloon tragedy in the film depends on one fact: Jed turns out to be a psychopath. His dogging Joe has no connection to the philosophical and psychological issues raised by the balloon tragedy, but an insane story that Jed has concocted. To me, that revelation negates the turmoil Joe experiences from that event (and the filmmaker seems to have left those sloughed those questions aside, perhaps, because theyíve served their purpose) because Jed is not dealing with the tragedy. The more I think about it, the more I feel the film is a conventional Hollywood thriller dressing itself up as a thoughtful exploration

After the revelation, it seems pointless to ask about the filmís final position on the nature of love, ethics, and the nature of meaning in human existence. The film does spend significant time bringing these issues up, but I canít see understand the filmís final commentary about these issues. Indeed, the filmmakers seemed to introduce these issues merely for the reasons I mentioned above.

If someone can explain the way the film resolves or addresses these philosophical issues at the film, I would really like to hear from them, especially if these people felt satisfied with the way the film handled these questions. Perhaps, the Michell never really intended to explore these issues in the first place?

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