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January 10, 2005

Enduring Love

2004.Britain.Michell

2.0 / 4.0

Roger Michell’s Enduring Love begins on a striking image. A pastoral setting is invaded by action as a hot air balloon interrupts a couple’s romantic picnic. The balloon is red and almost out of control. Behind it, an old man struggles to reel it in by way of a rope. Inside is a young boy. Suddenly, the picnicking man jumps into action. He speeds after the balloon, along with several strangers, and they manage to bring the balloon down. Everything is fine. Then a violent gust of wind, an act of God, lifts the balloon into the air again. The men hang onto the basket, hoping to force it back down. The balloon rises, contrasted against the sky. One of the men lets go. Within seconds, they all let go. Except for the old man, who rises with the balloon until even he can’t hold on. He falls to his death.

In this excellent scene, the balloon is a unique metaphor for love. Red, (the colour of passion but also of violence) the balloon (full of hot air) can be both an exhilarating experience (when witnessing the world from an otherwise impossibly high point of view) and destructive (as it proves for the old man). Love, as presented by Michell, is a force more powerful than any one person, and the most one can do is hang on. Sometimes this ends in happiness (the salvation of the young boy) and sometimes, for no logical reason (the gust of wind), in tragedy. The boy himself, in the basket, is perhaps a symbol for birth. And the old man’s death is an effective visualization of the self-destructiveness that an obsession motivated by love, such as the one the film will focus on, can result in. This opening scene has more depth than many full films.

Unfortunately, the promise of the film’s beginning is only a tease. Michell soon shows his true intentions, which sadly amount to making a gay, humdrum remake of Fatal Attraction. He fails to explore most of the issues raised by the great opening, and eventually even succumbs to preaching the film’s themes directly through the mouth of his main character. The actors do the best they can, but the film soon enough becomes tough to sit through. Neither the protagonist nor the religiously confused stalker are well developed, and the second act drags like Cheech Marin. My advice is to watch the first ten minutes and then turn it off. Most of Enduring Love is harder to endure than it is enduring.

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