A tale of chance encounters that test the bonds of love
The plot in an Ian McEwan novel tends to turn on a bizarre intrusion of violence that undermines a character's faith in others and himself. In Atonement (2002), it is the rape of a young aristocrat for which the housekeeper's son is falsely imprisoned. In The Child in Time (1987), it is the disappearance of a writer's 3-year-old daughter. In The Innocent (1990), it is the butchery that a meek English technician finds himself having to perform on the former husband of his German lover. And in The Comfort of Strangers (1981), which was adapted by Paul Schrader and Harold Pinter into a chilling 1991 film, it is the very cold comfort that an unsuspecting English couple discovers in the stranger they meet in Venice.
Enduring Love, adapted from a 1998 McEwan novel, begins with beguiling images of a glorious day in the country. In a vast, verdant meadow, Joe (Craig) and Claire (Morton) spread a picnic blanket and prepare to share expensive wine. Joe, who lectures at a university in London, is poised to produce a ring and propose to Claire, a sculptor with whom he is already living. But their romantic idyll is shattered by the abrupt
Joe attempts to make light of the incident during a dinner with friends, but he is haunted by the possibility that, by letting go of the rope and enabling the balloon to ascend higher, he was responsible for another's death. He is also pursued by one of the other failed rescuers, a religious fanatic named Jed. Joe wants to have nothing to do with this long-haired, fervent stranger, particularly when Jed proclaims enduring love for him. But Jed becomes a tenacious stalker, Joe's nemesis, and the sharer of his secret. Distressed and obsessed, Joe begins to question the validity of his work and to lose his hold on sanity. His encounter with a hot air balloon ends up puncturing his relationships with students, friends, and Claire.
Enduring Love is an interrogation not only of whether love endures but even of whether it exists as anything but a biological urge. Proud of his intellectual prowess, Joe delights in provoking listeners by dismissing love as nothing but an evolutionary mechanism, an illusion developed by the species to ensure reproduction. But his argument ceases to be merely a
Suspicious of why her dead husband grabbed the moor line to a runaway balloon, his widow notes, "He was afraid of heights." This is a film that does not touch the depths. •