Writers: O’Neil Sharma and Andre Case
Director: Scott Speer
Pitched somewhere between romance and fantasy, at first glance Endless is a story of opposites. The good girl, the rebellious guy. High-school graduate Riley (played by Alexandra Shipp) has just been accepted into Georgetown University. Chris, her boyfriend, (Nicholas Hamilton) is a petrolhead / motorbike obsessive, with no discernible ambition beyond high school. So far, Endless has all the hallmarks of, well, a Hallmark movie.
But Endless plays a different hand. We see Riley and Chris sat together, whilst Riley eagerly sketches. The rebel is hiding in plain sight. While intending to study law at Georgetown, Riley is an artist. She insists it’s a hobby: Chris is determined to make her acknowledge her full potential.
Director Scott Speer gives us a closer look at Riley and Chris’ relationship: heartfelt declarations are tempered with a John Hughes energy as they party with friends Julia (Zoe Belkin) and Nate (Eddie Ramos). Trying to reconcile her acceptance to Georgetown with her relationship, Riley is dismayed when Julia accidentally blurts out the good news. Chris, devastated, gets blindingly drunk. Unable to use Chris’ motorbike to get him home, Riley borrows Nate’s car. On their journey, they begin to argue. Riley takes her eyes off the road and they plough into another car.
Riley wakes up the next morning in hospital, not seriously injured. She asks her parents about Chris. They slowly begin to break the news that Chris has died. Sitting in the room with them is Chris. The unfolding horror as he realises what has happened sees him run out of the hospital and into the road, screaming for help. No-one reacts. A man, walking through the crowd, sees Chris and introduces himself as Jordan.
Jordan fills Chris in on where he is. Stuck in limbo, Chris has unfinished business to attend to before moving on. With his patter well and truly down, Jordan (dead since 1987) introduces Chris to the not-quite-afterlife. A performance with real heart, DeRon Horton brings an extra dimension to this ghost story. Chris wants to reconnect with Riley, who is struggling to deal with her loss. Jordan warns that connection comes at a price. Will it help either of them move forward?
Endless very much sets itself up as the Ghost for a new generation. The film asks us to consider our responses to grief and whether moving on means forgetting or learning to live with loss. As Riley, Alexandra Shipp convinces us of her despair and desperation, with a grounded, confident performance. Speer holds back with an unobtrusive directing style, giving the cast plenty of space. Playing Chris’ mother, Famke Janssen portrays a woman exhausted by grief. The complicated relationship between Riley and her parents (Ian Tracey and Catherine Lough Haggquist) is sharply drawn, with their desire to protect and shield Riley, finely balanced against their need to see her excel.
The details in Endless are what elevate it. The soundtrack (featuring artists such as Quiet Hounds, Nik Frestas, Paper Lights) lends an indie sensibility that provides much needed edge. The cinematography (Frank Borin, Mark Dobrescu) beautifully illustrates the world of Riley and Chris. Shot in cool, expressionist tones, Endless is just that little bit darker, a little bit deeper.
Lovers divided by death is not a new story, and the challenge for Endless was always going to be how this narrative was spun. By looking at the aftermath, and putting the pieces together, Endless succeeds by asking difficult questions but not necessarily giving us easy resolutions. Moving away from the average teenage flick into something more mature, Endless becomes a quality piece of story-telling.
Released: 23 November 2020