'Endless': Film Review

Endless -Publicity still 2 - H 2020 
Quiver Distribution
For only the most undiscriminating YA romantics.
8/14/2020

A dead teen can't leave his girlfriend behind in Scott Speer's supernatural love story.

Teen love proves stronger than death in Endless, Scott Speer's tale of a young man (Nicholas Hamilton) who dies in a car crash, but whose spirit clings to Earth to comfort his grieving girlfriend (Alexandra Shipp). The movie's title might as well be a reference to filmmakers' lasting interest in this kind of tale, and it's fortunate for Speer that his target audience isn't old enough to have encountered many good examples — like Anthony Minghella's beautiful Truly Madly Deeply, a movie wise enough to know that capturing the ordinariness of love is a surer way to convey the pain of being left behind than ladling on hyperidealized tru-luv signifiers cheapened by a million pop ballads and tearjerkers.

Shipp's Riley is an overachieving rich kid who intends to follow her parents' path to law school, but who fell hard for Chris, an "old-school guy who barely graduated." (Sweet-looking Hamilton is oddly cast as this rugged, undereducated gearhead, but maybe Riley's idea of "old school" dates back only as far as basic-cable teen soaps, not James Dean.) The two enjoy quiet hangouts in which Chris watches Riley sketch and they share conspicuously lame love-drunk banter. But when they go to a big, clubby party and the DJ stops everything so somebody can announce that Riley's been accepted to Georgetown — which shouldn't be remotely stop-the-presses news in this environment — Chris is wounded: Studying law instead of following her artistic muse? "This isn't you, Ry — it's your parents." Plus, it means they'll be a long-distance couple if they remain a couple at all. They're on a tense-silence drive home when their car is T-boned by another driver and Chris is killed.

Chris's mother (Famke Janssen) is ghoulishly forced to identify his body in a morgue whose workers won't turn on the lights to make a guest comfortable. This and the party-stopping college announcement are false notes that might be called minor if there weren't so many of them piling up everywhere — like a much bigger one around the corner: a subplot in which Ry, traumatized by the accident, is hounded by visits from a detective suggesting she may be legally responsible for Chris' death.

Meanwhile, Chris is coming to terms with being a ghost, shown the ropes by a kid (DeRon Horton's Jordan) who died back in '87 and seems blase about being stuck in a limbo where you never get sleepy, thirsty or horny. Contrary to everything Jordan has learned in over three decades, though, Chris finds he can communicate with Riley — telepathically speaking to her while a haze of glittering dust mites float around her, then eventually becoming visible in a soft-focus glow. Yes, kids, they do get to kiss. But no: Even when a kitchen scene has Chris wrapping his arms around Ry to show her how to chop something, the chaste movie refuses to pay off on the Ghost-passion-vibes causing older viewers to snicker. (And probably younger ones too, given how many times that potter's-wheel love scene has been parodied over the years.)

Naturally, once Riley knows her beloved is still around, the world of the living holds little appeal. But instead of digging into what's obviously the movie's ultimate concern (how Ry, like every other person who's lost a loved one in the movies, will find it within her to let her ghost go), Speer and his screenwriters pile on side-plot melodramas. Several people get wrongly accused of being responsible for somebody's death — there's as much undeserved guilt floating around in this picture as in a Fundamentalist kid's puberty years — and all three of our aforementioned protagonists find they have family issues that need working out.

All are broadly drawn and unconvincing, like everything else in this pandering supernatural romance.

Production companies: Summerstorm Entertainment, Film House Germany, Thunder Road, Minds Eye Entertainment
Distributor: Quiver Distribution (Available Friday, August 14 on demand)
Cast: Alexandra Shipp, Nicholas Hamilton, Zoe Belkin, Eddie Ramos, DeRon Horton, Catherine Lough Haggquist, Ian Tracey, Famke Janssen, Aaron Pearl
Director: Scott Speer
Screenwriters: Andre Case, Oneil Sharma
Producers: Gabriela Bacher, Kevin DeWalt, Sean Finegan, Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee
Directors of photography: Frank Borin, Mark Dobrescu
Costume designer: Brenda Shenher
Editor: Sean Valla
Composers: Todd Bryanton, Nik Freitas
Casting director: Eyde Balasco

94 minutes