Now that would be a tagline. Not one likely to make this meaty, moody movie the next Notting Hill, but Roger Michell's defiantly intelligent and absorbing film never neglects to entertain, for all the Big Ideas in play. It is... What? Thrilling drama? Dramatic thriller? Bloody good; not falling between two stools so much as diving elegantly, immersing you in the mentality of a well-adjusted, middle-class man whose certainties are shaken by the ugly reality of mortality.
Michell's The Mother dealt with awakening emotions deadened in the older generation, while delivering a caustic critique of bourgeois bores bitching and moaning in a life-draining London. Enduring Love is just as impressive, exploring similar themes but sparing more sympathy for its bewildered protagonist. Joe is a science lecturer and writer, examining the idea that love is an evolutionary necessity, rather than soul-sating desire. But once his equilibrium is upset by the accident, everything unravels. The filmmakers favour show over tell, whether it be through the exquisite idea of using Claire's (Morton) sculptures as a metaphor for a deteriorating relationship, or seeing Joe's tortured psyche reflected in a child's balloon floating past his window, distorted in the glass.
The symbolism is heavy but not leaden, thanks in part to a sense of humour absent in Ian McEwan's oppressive source novel. There are dark laughs when Jed interrupts a lesson with a Beach Boys song or responds to Joe's accusations of madness, ""That's what they said about Jesus once"." To which Joe's exasperated comeback is, ""They also said it about a lot of mad people"."
As the stalker, Rhys Ifans is excellent, blending pity and loathing, pathos and peril in a person who could be a sociopath, social leper or simply the embodiment of everything Daniel Craig's character fears. Morton does a lot with little, while Craig anchors the action so that even when the score and shooting style verge on the overheated, the humanity is never burned. With its clammy atmosphere and dangerous edge, this is a compelling picture of love, both tainted and true.
A trio of superb performances ensure Enduring Love engages heart as well as head. Tense, gripping and - - get this - - better than the book.
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