1 November 2004 | george.schmidt
'Fatal Attraction' gets a sex change
and then some.
ENDURING LOVE (2004) *** Daniel Craig, Rhys Ifans, Samantha Morton, Bill Nighy, Rosie Michell. (Dir: Roger Michell) 'Fatal Attraction' gets a sex change
and then some.
Fate and love seemed to be intertwined and can lead to lethal consequences, if not life changing and that simply is what happens when one idyllic day a British couple in love go picnicking in a bucolic field where tragedy inexplicably occurs.
The couple, Joe and Claire (Craig and Morton), are basking in their happiness when out of nowhere a red, hot air balloon enters the nearby horizon threatening to crash or worse yet continue its flight with its precious cargo: a young boy apparently unchaperoned with four other men frantically in pursuit of its wake. Joe, hesitating to make sense of the insensible, finally joins the posse whereby all five manage to wrestle the basket to earth until a fateful gust of wind intrudes sending them all aloft with deadly results.
Amongst the aftermath where all but one survives including a scruffy looking loner named Jed (Ifans) who asks Joe to join him in a mournful prayer for deceased. Reluctantly obliging the stranger who has shared a truly traumatic event sets the course of the film into a helter skelter portrayal of love gone wrong amidst an uncommon bond.
Joe, an academic, is suddenly plagued by the odd Jed on a regular basis showing up unannounced with a request to speak to him resulting in Jed's immediate crush on him sending him into a state of anger, confusion and wrestling with the other dilemma he has harbored: wishing he was able to do more to save the man who perished in the accident. Joe cannot get this out of his system that he should have conceivably prevented an unnecessary death while Jed cannot get Joe out of his system in delusionally believing they were meant to meet under dire circumstances underscoring the prevalent unspoken desire to be with one another.
Joe also is making life difficult with his relationship with Claire, an artist who is very deep into her work and cannot deal with Joe's obsession and subsequently Jed's for that matter. What follows is a tale of mixed emotions, homoerotic overtones, the fear of intimacy, the knowledge of failing to stop an unstoppable nightmare and ultimately the amount of psychological damage one can endure in the name of love.
Director Michell - who helmed the diverse 'NOTTING HILL' and 'CHANGING LANES' practically melds the two, an English romance with an action thriller in his adaptation of the novel by Ian McEwan by Joe Penhall mixes the taut tension expertly, particularly in the calm before the storm and then into the eye of the hurricane in the opening sequence which sets the aftermath in motion.
Craig best known as Paul Newman's f**k-up gangster spawn in 'ROAD TO PERDITION' echoes Richard Harris with his craggy, middle-class good looks and slight brawn as Joe, allowing the shades of grey to immerse himself as the film progresses largely from his point of view in utter disbelief at that madness unspooling and Morton counter balances with just enough attitude and frankly seems to be playing the male role in the couple (i.e. the strong, fairly silent-to-the-point tolerance of her mate).
It is Ifans, best known as Hugh Grant's grotty flat mate from the aforementioned 'HILL', who surprises in making his sad, mild-mannered loner into a uniquely frightening force to be reckoned with not seen since Glenn Close's downward spiral of carnal obsession in 'FATAL ATTRACTION' which feels like a carbon copy of but holds itself on not being only a suspense thriller but a uniformly smart, adult drama. With its Hitchcockian undercurrents the film as a whole gets under one's psyche skin and nestles itself into our worst nightmares: unbridled love by an unwanted would-be love.