Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. United Kingdom, 2004. Pathe Pictures International, UK Film Council, FilmFour, Inside Track Films, Free Range Films, Ingenious Film Partners, Ridgeway Productions. Screenplay by Joe Penhall, based on the novel by Ian McEwan. Cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos. Produced by Kevin Loader. Music by Jeremy Sams. Production Design by John Paul Kelly. Costume Design by Natalie Ward. Film Editing by Nicolas Gaster. Toronto International Film Festival 2004.
Daniel Craig is fantastic as a university professor who, one lazy afternoon, is enjoying a relaxing picnic in an abandoned meadow with his sculptor girlfriend (Samantha Morton) when they are interrupted by the sudden appearance of a giant, red hot-air balloon. The balloon is carrying a young boy and is being trailed by the boy’s desperate grandfather who is trying to regain control of it. Craig runs to help, as do a group of strangers who suddenly appear out of nowhere, and they all endanger their lives to help until a gust of wind takes the two strangers into the air and the helpers fall to the ground before it gets too high. One man, a doctor, falls to his death when he waits too long to let go, and a story of guilt and obsession is set into motion. Craig and an oddball drifter (Rhys Ifans) rush to find the body, and their witnessing it and guilt over not having been able to prevent the accident follows them back to their regular everyday lives. Ifans keeps showing up in Craig’s neighbourhood and insists that they have a special bond of love between them ever since that day. Craig tells him to stop harassing him because he doesn’t know what he wants, all the while he is trying to work out his own issues that have sprung up in the meantime, alienating Morton more and more as he progresses deeper into his remorse. The best bits involve the small roles played by Bill Nighy and Susan Lynch as friends of the couple who watch as Craig dissolves from a passionate thinker to a babbling idiot. Morton doesn’t have a central enough role in the story, but she’s such a fantastic performer that her moments are enough to convince you that she’s one of the most challenging and interesting faces in films today. Based on the novel by Ian McEwan, this film boasts one of the most memorably original openings, a richly visual prologue followed by a fascinating plot that immediately hooks its audience and rivets you into your seat for the first hour and a half. The last third, however, is a shameful letdown, with the plot taking a ridiculous turn that resembles Fatal Attraction. Ifans’ character is ominously mysterious for most of the picture, his character never revealing itself as either angel or demon and his purposes unknown, until the screenwriters instruct us to hate him in the end to provide for a tidy conclusion. In all fairness, it really is an enjoyable drama, but it’s also homophobic bullshit at the same time.