Enduring Love (2004)

Film review: Enduring Love (2004), directed by Roger Michell

A happy couple, Claire (Samantha Morton) and Joe (Daniel Craig) are on a picnic in a field somewhere near Oxford. They witness a hot air balloon crash landing in the field, and Joe tries to help the people on board. A child is still on board when a gust of wind makes the balloon take flight, and Joe and a number of other blokes helping out take flight with it, clinging on for dear life … All except one manage to let go before they’re too high up. One of them doesn’t, let’s go and plummets to his death.

After this, Joe gets a bad case of survivor’s guilt and keeps going over ways things could have turned out without the man dying. (The kid was fine, by the way – he managed to pull himself together and pulled the right cord, bringing the balloon down a few miles away.) This obsession starts to create a strain on the relationship with Claire. At the same time, Joe is approached by one of the other witnesses, Jed (Rhys Ifans), who doesn’t seem to want to leave him alone for some strange reason …

This psychological thriller also features Bill Nighy as a friend of the couple, Andrew Lincoln as (I think?) a friend of Joe’s and Ben Whishaw as one of Joe’s students.

Spoilerage about the “some strange reason” ahead.

Enduring Love is psychological, yes, but it’s not much of a thriller until near the end. The funny thing is, you can tell a MILE off why Jed keeps stalking Joe. Because yes, that’s the point, HE’S A BLOODY STALKER! DUUUH!

Joe just walks around in his own little balloon-crazed world thinking it’s quite bizarre how this nutcase keeps appearing everywhere saying things like “oh come on, just say it, you know you want to, admit it to yourself!” and instead of realising the bleedin’ obvious, Joe just responds, “I have no idea what you’re on about, please leave me alone, you weirdo”. Has the man never heard of stalking before? It doesn’t seem like it, until he starts searching for something on the interwebs. I’m sorry, Joe, but you’re like a university lecturer, don’t tell me a well-educated man like yourself can be that clueless! Honestly!

Even if you don’t know the exact psychological specification of what a stalker is, or have ever heard the term “erotomania“, at least you will have heard of stalkers and have some general idea that it’s people who won’t leave the object of their affection alone and who is willing to invade that person’s privacy at any cost.

Sure, I enjoyed this film. It’s really well acted, good direction and cinematography and anything psychological is bound to have me fascinated, but I felt it was let down by the elephant in the room.

I mean, for goodness sake, one of the first things Jed says to Joe – right at the very beginning, when they find the dead body of the man from the balloon – is, no kidding, “I want you … to pray with me.” Ughhh, you know? There’s me thinking “It sounds like he totally fancies him, LOL!” and then, Jed shows back up and starts with the whole “you have something you want to tell me, don’t you? Don’t try to hide it, don’t deny yourself the man you really are” … when it turned into “oh, right, I see; he does actually fancy him”. Not that I blame him, of course, who wouldn’t fancy a bit of Daniel Craig? (And one that doesn’t do the whole Action Man thing either!)

But there is Joe brooding over the ballooning incident, Claire getting fed up with her partner going more and more crazy, to the point where he wakes her up in the middle of the night shouting about curtains. I’m kind of on her side a bit (especially with the whole not wanting to make a sculpture of Joe because it’s too personal – I get what she means perfectly, even if Joe got into a hissy fit about it), when she doesn’t get a bit too unsympathetic.

Strange film. Not bad, but I wonder how it would have turned out if he had just used that brain he was obviously equipped with and realised that he had a love-crazed stalker on his hands, and discussed it with Claire:

Oh yeah, you know that weirdo from the accident? Turns out he’s madly in love with me and is off his bleedin’ rocker, going through our bins searching for mementos of me. I should probably call the police on him before this turns proper nasty. And I should probably see someone about the balloon incident, it’s making me feel all moody and stuff.

But of course, that never happens. And it should have done. That would have made a more plausible film, and therefore more enjoyable. What a shame.

3 out of 5 curtain signals.

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