Review: Endless Love (2014)

Love lost and love found are some of the most rewarding narratives we have ever seen on the big screen. In David Elliot’s (Alex Pettyfer) case, love lost, as his therapist tells him, is “like a book you read long ago”, and those words could not be more true for Endless LoveAside from being a remake of Brooke Sheilds’ 1981 film of the same name, the film is also an exercise to see how Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, written almost 420 years ago, could be modernized, interpreted and adapted for a Pinterest-driven, Instagram-obsessed generation of young people. But like the amaro, hudson and mayfair filters featured on the highly addictive mobile app, Endless Love is a sun kissed love story told through the lens of a writer/director that is beautiful to look at, and understands what it’s audience wants, especially during one of the most forcefully romantic times of the year. 

No movie released on or around Valentine’s Day should be judged on originality, because like the holiday itself, there is nothing original about roses, chocolates, and forced sentiment that is the driving force flooding people’s minds. Instead, writer/director Shana Feste delivers an entertaining, nicely shot film of first love with many of the essential ingredients to make it a success amongst young people.

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One minute, hopping along the roofs of cars, the other, kissing the girl of your dreams, Endless Love is a soft and safe story of two lovers who find themselves on opposite ends of the tracks of life. David, who has been in love with Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) since tenth grade, uses their high school graduation as a chance to finally connect with her. The wonderfully innocent and vibrantly blonde Jade, who has spent the last two years of high school mourning the death of her older brother Chris Butterfield (Patrick Johnson), decides to spend most of her free time submerged in literature and within the tall gates of her family’s large estate. Grieving from the loss of their child, Hugh and Anne Butterfield (Bruce Greenwood and Joely Richardson) are content with having their two remaining children sheltered at home. It isn’t until Jade’s graduation that the lives of the Butterfield’s are completely sent topsy-turvy by David, a smart and sophisticated young man whose main concerns are his father and his attainment of true love.

The 1981 version of the film is a dark and often times melodramatic adaptation of Scott Spencer’s novel of the same name. David’s character and the past that haunts him in the two earlier adaptations are much darker and convoluted, often times resulting in mental institution. But in Feste’s interpretation, the real conflict in the film is the one between Jade’s overprotective father Hugh, and David. This conflict in the film is the driving force for so many of the characters and is one that shows the intentions of a young and impressionable boy, against the expectations of a worrisome and overbearing father.

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Hugh, a cardiologist, after having his prized son pass away, looks to keep his family tradition alive through his to-be doctor daughter, especially since his middle son Keith (Rhys Wakefield of The Purge), is intent at keeping his father at arms length; falling in love and studying on his own terms. Greenwood’s performance of Hugh is one that has many layers; on the one side, a protective father who keeps his daughter from making a decision that might jeopardized her life and future; and on the other side is a haughty, upper class elite who doesn’t see David as able to provide the kind of lifestyle his daughter deserves. Greenwood becomes the essence of the film, showing that true love doesn’t always reign supreme and providing the film with a conflicted character with realistic and somewhat expected mid-life crises.

The truth remains, there is a big difference between true love and first love. David, who scores an impeccable SAT score and professes to finding happiness in simplicity, spends his days after high school helping his father Harry Elliot (Robert Patrick) around the auto shop he owns. Throughout Endless Love we are reminded just how smart and wise David is, yet the choices he makes, and a little bad luck, get the better of him. Showing very brief glimpses of anger that often finds his fist connecting with several people throughout the film, David gives merit to Hugh’s concerns for his daughter. But, like any good cranky dad set amidst any love story, love reigns over logic. Decisions are made during the course of heart-wrenching monologues, and tempers escalate quickly, but not before any Valentine’s Day film’s centre motto is expressed, and that’s letting the past go.

Greenwood’s character Hugh may be a bit manipulative, controlling and dramatic with his actions towards David, but there is no doubt that Hugh faces so many of the concerns of fathers whose daughters tread off the path they set for them. Endless Love is a very melodramatic yet manipulative descent into social classes and how it affects young people in love, but throughout the film, there are hints of truth and reality.

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Overall the film is a success thanks to it’s talented actors in front of the camera. From Richardson, a mother who knows the power of love, to Wakefield who gives an accurate, rebellious truth to the neglected middle child, the performances in Endless Love are as good as can be. Dayo Okeniyi, who gives a reminiscent Derek Luke like performance in the film, gives the film much of its humour and heart, standing beside his best friend and star-crossed lover David. Aside from the lovers, the film is held together by it’s patriarch Greenwood, on and off screen.

Valentine’s Day is usually a holiday where the source material for Nicholas Sparks reigns supreme, and as of recently, Sparks’ source material has yet to produce anything noteworthy since 2004’s The Notebook. In one of the most competitive Valentine’s Day’s in recent memory,  Endless Love is the simple and innocent choice for young film-goers and their loved ones this year. Between a young and attractive cast of actors, to a soundtrack that is fresh, indie and cool, Endless Love is a tale that not only shows the loss of innocence this Valentine’s day, but also the power of naivety, and given its main demographic, I guess that’s the point.

Night Film Reviews: 6.5 Out of 10 Stars.

Are you endlessly in love with Endless Love? Or has the spell broken? Great story of young love, or premature story of the issues with youth today? Leave all your love…or hate below.

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