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On a beautiful cloudless day a young couple celebrate their reunion with a picnic. Joe has planned a postcard-perfect afternoon in the English countryside with his partner, Claire. But as Joe and Claire prepare to open a bottle of champagne, their idyll comes to an abrupt end. A hot air balloon drifts into the field, obviously in trouble. The pilot catches his leg in the anchor rope, while the only passenger, a boy, is too scared to jump down. Joe and three other men rush to secure the basket. Just as they secure the balloon, the wind rushes into the field, and at once the rescuers are airborne. Joe manages to drop to the ground, as do most of his companions, but one man is lifted skywards. As Joe, Claire and the other rescuers watch this strangely beautiful sight, they see the man fall to his death. Recalling the day's events at dinner with his friends Robin and Rachel, Joe reveals the impact the accident has had on his battered psyche. Ironically the balloon eventually lands safely,... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
I am normally a fan of Ian McEwan's fiction, but have never got round to reading "Enduring Love", so came to this film with an open mind. It has its positive aspects: beautiful English countryside; quasi-Vaughan Williams soundtrack; some good cinematography, particularly in the excellent opening scene, which is by far the best part of the film. For the most part however it is a case of watching good actors wrestle with a dire script and an implausible plot. There are many weaknesses in the script, but the most obvious is its failure to give any of the characters any real sense of where they come from, what motivates them, and why they behave as they do. For example, Joe (the main character) is a university lecturer: I gather from what I've read about the film, that he is a science lecturer, but this is far from apparent from the short lecture sequences we see, in which he is seen talking about love, which he suggests is a matter of biology. He could be lecturing in English, sociology, psychology - there's no obvious scientific context to what he's saying. Although he was apparently about the propose to his partner, Clare, before the accident in the opening scene, there is some unspecified strain in their relationship which prevents her being at all supportive when his problems begin, but what this is remains completely obscure. There are numerous other glaring omissions of information. One of the most irritating things is the lack of any sense of timescale: it's not clear if the events take place over days, weeks or months.
Perhaps the plot worked better on the page. Joe witnesses a shocking balloon accident, following which he suffers nightmares and flashbacks, but neither he nor his partner nor his friends ever consider that he might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and suggest counselling. They are all highly intelligent Guardian-reading types - surely one of them would have suggested he should get some help. He never sees Jed (the stalker) after the accident until Jed telephones him. But an unusual accident of this kind would undoubtedly be followed by an inquest at which evidence would be called: surely they would have met there? Joe becomes the victim of Jed's stalking, but never considers contacting the police, or seeing a solicitor. At one point, Jed is standing, late at night opposite Joe's house. He suggests that Clare look out of the window to see him: she just stays in bed. Even if she's is sceptical about Joe's tale of being stalked, surely she would have had a look?
Daniel Craig does his best with the part of Joe; Rhys Ifans is reasonably good as Jed (my experience (as a lawyer) of stalkers is that they not generally as obviously barmy as Jed, but that is the fault of the script, not the actor); there's a good performance in a minor role by Bill Nighy. Samantha Morton as Clare is quite shockingly poor: she delivers her lines in a stifled mutter and appears to have only two expressions - sullen and very sullen. Perhpas, with the lines she is given, you can hardly blame her.
Many years ago Ian McEwen wrote a play called "The Imitation Game" for the BBC. It was a subtle, thoughtful, sad and elegantly written piece about self-deceit and male attitudes to women. Twenty years later he is responsible (albeit with a co-author, the much praised playwright Joe Penhall) for this lazily-written film. In recent years he seems to have found a role as novelist to the middle classes - the message is: Look although we may appear to be comfortable and well-off, nasty things happen to us! People stalk us! We are menaced in the street by thugs (this is in his latest novel)! You shouldn't envy us - we really have a horrid time! Those of us who can remember his early novels and short stories (The Cement Garden, First Love, Last Rites) may feel that this is not progress.
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