When I started book blogging way back in the historical recesses of 2010 — back when LiveJournal was my platform of choice — I focused on paranormal YA novels of the post-Twilight boom. That meant I spent a whole lot of my 20th Summer reading stories that followed the same tropes, beats, and intents, to the point where I even made a bingo card for fellow snarkers to play along. I wish I still had that bingo card because Endless probably would have resulted in a full house, even with its distinct lack of vampires. Honestly, I was genuinely pretty surprised to discover that this movie wasn’t based on a YA book I’d read at least once.
Riley (Alexandra Shipp) is the perfect girl, an overachieving rich kid with her life ahead of her and plans to follow in her parents’ footsteps. The love of her life is Chris (Nicholas Hamilton), her supposed polar opposite from the wrong side of the tracks who still rides a fancy motorcycle and looks as if he’s fallen straight out of a GQ editorial. He’s sad that her plans to attend Georgetown and become a lawyer will impede on her creativity and their evidently long-lasting relationship. While arguing mildly in their car after he discovers the news, the pair get into a car accident and Chris is killed. This is news to Chris, who is right by Riley’s bedside when she wakes up. This all happens in the first ten minutes of Endless so you have to give them credit for getting to the point so quickly.
In case you couldn’t tell, Endless is riding that Ghost train hard. It’s hardly the first film to follow in those mighty, clay-clad footsteps, of course, but it does mean that you know exactly where this movie is going from the moment that Chris realizes he’s dead. He jumps through space and time exploring the parts of his past that defined his life. He communicates with Riley in any way he can, mostly through the shiny haze of cinematic telepathy. And yes, they kiss, but can they both let go of one another?
In the glimpses of Riley and Chris’s relationship that we see from the before times, Shipp and Hamilton have a sweet chemistry that seems like it would be better suited to something much fizzier than this kind of portentous melodrama. These actors cry out for their own To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before or something with a similar sort of buoyancy to it. Instead, they’re saddled with an endless assembly line of clichés that would be watchable if there were some zest or real investment in this oft-repeated concept.
Most of the time, it’s as if the film has to painfully strain to be as trope-laden as it is. Riley insists that her parents disapprove of Chris in the beginning but they seem pretty chill about their relationship. When the forced baddie enters the scene — a curiously dogged detective who is convinced that Riley is legally responsible for Chris’s death — Riley is unnecessarily angry at her lawyer parents for wanting to ensure she’s not caught out by the situation. And yes, there is a ‘hilarious’ ghost sidekick who occasionally drops in to help guide Chris through the afterlife, and yes, DeRon Horton of Dear White People fame is basically shoved into the Sassy Black Friend stereotype. You can practically hear the director telling him to ‘go full Whoopi.’
Speaking of Ghost, would you be surprised to discover that there is indeed a scene where the spirit Chris wraps his arms around Riley and guides her in sensually chopping up some vegetables. OK, it’s not that fun. It’s all perfectly chaste, don’t worry, concerned parents of the living and dead. One wonders if this scene was intended to be a homage to that forever parodied pottery scene. Surely it had to be? Otherwise, it’s just depressingly lacking in self-awareness, which, in fairness, is a big mood for this entire movie.
Endless is a movie of false notes. Storytelling tropes and character archetypes exist for a reason and can be utilized in exciting and effective ways, but there’s none of that on display here. It’s as if each beat is a contractual obligation. The end result of this is that none of the emotional beats feel earned. They’re just expected parts of this narrative, the ones you know are coming and nod slightly with acknowledgment when they pass. The filmmakers seem to believe that the real tension in grief is needless piled-on drama and not the more mundane details that define life. Moving on after the passing of a loved one is never easy, but it’s made near-torturous by how ordinary everything else going on around you is. The world keeps turning, you still wake up in the morning, and you have to do all the things that humans do, even if it feels like agony. That Endless doesn’t think such realities are interesting enough to convey the emotional and thematic heft of its own concept is a disappointment. It thinks it’s enough to tell us their love is important — nay, the most important thing on earth — and that requires little else on their part. Instead, we get scenes of hysterical mourning that are all-too-reminiscent of the moments in New Moon where Bella screams in her sleep over the absence of Edward Cullen.
There’s nothing offensively bad about Endless and its familiarity could have been excused if there were some authenticity behind its emotional intentions. Sadly, the final product is too beholden to the tired and expected. It really could have used some vampires.
Endless is available now on VOD.
Header Image Source: Summerstorm Entertainment // Thunder Road Pictures