Call "Endless Love" pulp romance. If that description fits. And cranky critics will easily find in this tale much material about which to gnash their teeth. The film is not a moving target.
But wait: consider the demographic, look at the title. This is a love story targeted for the young — and, to be more specific, adolescent girls who will happily suspend their disbelief and embrace the idea that there is indeed a life experience, an endless life experience, known as romantic love.
As the film implicitly demonstrates, this is not enduring love, nor is it love that has stood the travails of life and all its frailties and, of course, time. This is the all-consuming, vertigo-inducing, heart-palpitating physical love that if sustained for years would leave the couple so exhausted they would be unable to function (like get out of bed and go to work, meaning work with all its concomitant demands and complications).
The fulcrum for "Endless Love" is exactly the type of love that is perfect for one glorious, magical summer. And that's what two just-graduated teens find. They, Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) and David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer), are smitten, feverish for one another, and prepared to live in that reckless zone where nothing else matters. Does the film get this just about right? Indeed. For its intended audience.
Of course, for Jade and David to prove and prove again their commitment to one another, there must be obstacles. Think of it as the test. And it's not just that David is from the wrong side of town and that Jade is that ideal, virginal sweetheart whose father, Hugh (Bruce Greenwood) is a doctor and the family lives in a mansion. On the right side of town. It's a bit more complicated. Hugh is prepared to do whatever it takes to separate lovely Jade from working-class David. In his world of medicine and affluence, how could David ever be right for Jade, no matter how firmly David's feet are planted on the ground (he's clear about not going to college; Jade is pre-med and following in her father's footsteps).
Do they manage to have their summer? Absolutely. And it's a montage of golden days: playing like young seals in the waters off the Butterfield summer house, running across green expanses of well-tended lawn, making tentative love in front of the family fireplace. All of it forbidden and resisted by Hugh, who comes close to crossing an Oedipal line as he fights for his daughter's loyalty and compliance while David fights for her love.
Of course, this is not a tragedy. And the young audience knows this going in. Or at least by the end of act one. Love will triumph, and neither Jade nor David is about to do anything Shakespearean.
The moral of this tale is that young, forbidden love is a meal best served very hot. Or just hot enough to garner a PG-13 rating.
Tangentially, the casting for the film is awful. David, slated to be 18, looks mid-twenties. As does Jade, who is supposed to be 17. Neither appears, even remotely, to have just graduated from high school. Both, in real life, are from England, and both have already had successful careers as models. But no worries. This film is for teens, and both actors create the required Valentine's Day chemistry.