By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
For all their glamour, there’s something opaque and ill-defined about Joe and Claire — we can’t quite see what binds them, aside from a certain Sunday-magazine lifestyle chic. The movie, like the novel, belongs to Jed, who’s superbly played with a kind of insidious vulnerability by Welsh actor Rhys Ifans, memorable for his role as Hugh Grant’s feckless flatmate in Notting Hill. By turns whiny and threatening, this religious nutball attaches himself to Joe like a leech and follows him everywhere, imploring his increasingly enraged victim to give in to what he sees as their predestined mutual attraction. Like all psychotics, Jed is locked into a psychotic inner logic no amount of reason can dislodge, and he’s found a perfect mark in Joe, a stubborn rationalist given to musing aloud in class that we may be biologically programmed for love merely “to ensure a fuck,” yet whose cerebral positivism is shaken by the tragedy he’s witnessed. Worse, Jed has also brought to the surface a fundamental clash of temperament between Joe and Claire, an uncomplicated woman guided by love and instinct, who finds herself increasingly frightened and alienated by Joe’s billowing obsession with Jed, not to mention his guilt over having failed to save the man who fell to earth.
Expertly and with agonizing deliberateness, Michell ratchets up the tension among this appalling triangle. A weapon appears and is used — twice — but the violence of the denouement doesn’t detract from a finale that has less to do with death than with McEwan’s recurring theme, the underground anxieties that course through the most seemingly perfect of unions. It’s not only Joe and Claire who find the ties that bind looser than they’d thought. Enduring Love is riddled with fractured couples: Claire’s married brother has taken off with his dim bulb of an au pair, the widow of the would-be rescuer is convinced her husband was having an affair, and, later in the movie, a secret May-December romance emerges. Perhaps to offset all this anguish, Michell and screenwriter Joe Penhall have installed a happy marriage that was not in the novel — a remarried couple (played by the wonderful Bill Nighy and Susan Lynch) surrounded by children that is perhaps a tribute to McEwan himself, who has a second wife and at least four kids. For McEwan, it’s often the absence of children, as much as any deus ex machina, that gets a couple into trouble. Still, I wonder what it says about his faith in love and/or marriage that by far the most powerful and, in its twisted way, persuasive relationship in Enduring Love — a willfully ambiguous title that leaves you wondering whether it refers to love that lasts or love that must be endured — is unrequited, homoerotic and doomed from the get-go.
ENDURING LOVE| Directed by ROGER MICHELL | Written by JOE PENHALL | Adapted from the novel by IAN McEWAN | Produced by KEVIN LOADER | Released by Paramount Classics | At the Grove, Landmark’s Westside Pavilion and the Mann Criterion
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