Endless Love

ENDLESS LOVE. Starring Alex Pettifer, Gabriella Wilde, Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson, Rhys Wakefield, Robert Patrick. Directed by Shana Feste. Rated M (infrequent coarse language). 106 minutes.

It was surprising in 1981 that celebrated film and theatre director, Franco Zeffirelli, directed the Hollywood film – with the touch of soap opera – Endless Love. It was a star vehicle for Brooke Shields in those days and Tom Cruise had a small role. The main protagonist was played by Martin Hewitt who did not have a strong career in films. But the theme song, sung by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, proved very popular at the time.

But now this is a new time and a new version of Endless Love. A number of comments have indicated that it is quite different from the novel, and the novelist himself, Scott Spencer, has recommended that people avoid this film and satisfy themselves with reading his book. Certainly, in reading some synopses of the book and of the original film, the 2014 version changes a number of the emphases.

This time the young man is played by British Alex Pettyfer, who has had some success in recent times in American films like The Butler and Magic Mike. Here he is a strong character, unlike the original, and audiences will empathise with him, a rather principled young man from the wrong side of the tracks. The focus of emotional trouble is on Jade (Gabriella Wilde), finishing her high school, sad, along with her grieving family, at the death of her older brother, the shining light of the family who died of cancer. She has been quiet, confining herself to home and study, but sees David and is attracted by him and asks her parents for a graduation party so that she can invite him to. This is the beginning of endless love for them both.

All might have been well except that Jade’s father, expertly played by Bruce Greenwood, a single-minded father, distraught at the death of his favourite son, putting down his other son who never seems to be able to please him, and, to his father’s mockery, he is studying Communications. The father now places all his attention on Jade, wanting her to be a doctor, following in his footsteps. She is willing, until she falls in love with David, and wants to spend the summer vacation with him rather than going to a medical apprenticeship. Father not pleased, to say the least.

David does have Jade’s interests at heart, and is supported by his garage-working father, played by Robert Patrick. There are some fights, a fire disaster, which brings things to a head and, finally, the possibility of a future for David and Jade, a real beginning again for an endless love.

One thing to say about Endless Love is that unlike so many of the film is about young teenagers emerging from America, which tend to be fairly crass and sexist, this one advocates genuine feelings and wants to foster mutual respect in love and in families. Which is something in American films that we should not knock.

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

Out February 28 2014.