Dear Enduring Love,
On your surface you are a simple story of obsession; a ballooning accident ties two men together in ways that neither of them realizes and affects their lives in ways neither could anticipate. This primary plot, with its subtle pacing and effective performances could very well carry a film on its own, but the hidden engine beneath this narrative brings you up to a new level. The idea of the search for the nature and purpose of love as a means to drive one to madness is novel, and leaves open plenty of opportunities for layered and ironic moments.
That you put on the trappings of a thriller as a means to explore deeper psychological issues is nothing new. Psychological thrillers are a genre to themselves, and yet often times this label means nothing other than that the protagonist might be crazy, or that there will be a twist involving multiple personalities. As such, your commitment to actually exploring issues of psychology and biology and the way in which we strive to give meaning to these wired impulses is a great relief.
Luckily both of these aspects is balanced well, and neither supersedes the other in terms of narrative importance or artistic priority. Your opening scene depicting the harrowing hot air balloon accident and failed rescue attempt that leaves one man dead and a group of strangers shaken is a good example of this. The compositions and editing in this scene are artistic, clear, and yet in their sterility and clarity there is a painful, disconcerting directness. Then, when this scene transitions midway through to Joe, one of the rescuers, giving narration of the event, and the two scenes become intertwined, we see that all of that directness is a result of his linger fear and growing guilt.
All of this will drive a wedge between Joe and his girlfriend, Claire, as he struggles to make sense of the death of his fellow would-be hero. Joe, a teacher who lectures on the biological genesis of love, cannot reconcile the randomness of the event, and feels that he and the other men in the field that day could have done… something. There was a reason behind that man’s death, and he must find it.
Exacerbating this problem is Jed, another of the rescuers who feels as though he and Joe shared something that day in the field. For Jed, the reason behind the death isn’t related to what caused it, but what it caused. The reason for the death wasn’t negligence or fear, it was God’s hand. It was meant to draw him and Joe together. This he attempts to convince Joe of through overtures of such fervency and earnestness that they only serve to shake Joe’s psyche further.
Loss of control, the idea that things might not have a meaning, that love, death and all other things might spring from some eternal and uncontrollable well of nothingness. These are ideas that leave Joe paralyzed, angry, and unable to operate. The more he refuses to believe or accept his loss of control, the more control he loses. This steady decline is brilliantly conveyed by Daniel Craig, and his foil in Jed is imbued with a subtle creepiness by Rhys Ifans. One searches for certainty, one refuses to relinquish his own, and their meetings slowly grow to reflect the impossibility of these two forces to exist.
As I said previously, all of this is shot and edited with a clear, decisive eye for compositions and pacing. The pacing is subtle, ratcheting up the tension to a level that is almost unbearable. As Joe becomes more unhinged and alienates more of his allies, we as an audience can’t help but empathize with his impotence.
As humans we instinctively instill meaning in to things that may in fact have no meaning. Sometimes, however, it is imperative to have faith that just the fact that we feel something is important is enough to make it so. The hunt for and belief in meaning and reason behind all things can consume us, and you do an excellent job of showing the perils therein.
With enduring love,
Brian J. Roan