THE STORY – Stuck in limbo after dying in a car accident, a young man transcends life and death by finding a way to reconnect with the woman he loves.
THE CAST – Alexandra Shipp, Nicholas Hamilton, DeRon Horton & Famke Janssen
THE TEAM – Scott Speer (Director), O’Neil Sharma & Andre Case (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 95 Minutes
By Dan Bayer
Like so many teenage lovers, Riley (Alexandra Shipp) and Chris (Nicholas Hamilton) are slightly star-crossed. He’s a hockey player who likes working on his motorcycle; she just got accepted to Georgetown and likes to draw her own graphic novels. He lives with his single mom on the wrong side of the tracks; her parents are high-powered, wealthy attorneys. She likes sushi; he doesn’t. One night, after fighting about her moving across the country for college, the two are involved in a car crash and Chris dies, but his spirit stays behind. Their connection allows them to still interact across the barrier of life and death, but at the cost of Riley’s health and both of them being able to move on. Will the two be able to survive the most socially distanced relationship ever?
Yes, “Endless” is a boilerplate teen romance, with a little bit of 1990’s “Ghost” thrown in for good measure. As such, it never really deviates from the boilerplate teen romance beats. However, what “Endless” does have to set it apart is a pair of committed performances at its center that never once condescends the material or its intended audience. Shipp and Hamilton make a believable pair, and Shipp’s opening narration works perfectly alongside the pair’s chemistry to sell the romance before we’ve even spent much time with them. The central couple has to work to sell any romantic material, but a romance where one of them dies requires even more of the living half. Thankfully, Shipp is up to the task, believably grieving and becoming consumed with seeing the love of her life’s face even after death. She’s good when the film calls for her to go big, but is even better in smaller moments like interacting with her friends after her boyfriend and their best friend has died. It’s a genuinely moving performance, one that proves yet again that Shipp is a star. If Hamilton doesn’t appear up to her level, this isn’t necessarily his fault – although he’s less charismatic here than as bad boy Charlie Bowers in the “It” films. It’s more that the screenplay gives him far less to do, and he underplays everything that isn’t a big emotional moment.
While the screenplay does do some dopey things with Chris’s afterlife adventures (DeRon Horton tries as Chris’s guide to the afterlife, but it doesn’t work) and a police investigation into the fateful crash, the film is short enough that we don’t spend too much time on those elements. Credit to director Scott Speer for keeping things moving, and for the sensitivity around the romance, but he makes a few overly cliché choices that come across as a bit cringe-worthy. It’s not much – a canted angle here, a slight fish-eye lens there – but it’s enough to mar the solid filmmaking elsewhere. The music – both the needle drops and the score by Todd Bryanton and Nik Freitas – is well-used, and the visual effects in the moments when Riley and Chris connect add just the right amount of supernatural wonder to those scenes.
“Endless” is a teen romance that will make you remember your high school romances and want to go back to relive those pure emotions all over again. And considering how horrible high school can be, that’s no mean feat. The film isn’t a new classic by any means, but thanks to the commitment to its central premise and the moving performance by Alexandra Shipp, it’s one that won’t be an embarrassing guilty pleasure in another decade or so.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Alexandra Shipp gives a moving performance in a supernatural teen romance that takes the grieving process seriously and never talks down to its audience.
THE BAD – Some overly clichéd poor choices mar an otherwise well-made film.
THE OSCARS – None