While enjoying a romantic picnic, Joe and Claire (Craig and Morton) catch sight of an out-of-control hot air balloon. As they attempt to rescue those inside, they witness someone fall to their death. Afterwards Joe finds himself stalked by Jed (Ifans), a man who was also at the scene.
Though it crawls into the same queasy headspace as Fatal Attraction, this adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel is a far cry from that movie's slick thrills. Director Roger Michell eschews bunny-boiling melodrama, relying instead on his leading man's performance to chart the victim's emotional disintegration.
Considering that the leading man in question is Layer Cake's Daniel Craig, that wasn't such a bad call. By no means just a foil for Rhys Ifans' amorous stalker, Craig's Joe shares the unhinged loner's obsessive nature; as he slides ever downwards, the actor hits just the right notes of paranoia and detachment, his cobalt-blue eyes flashing with panic.
There are also some effective visual quirks. The novel's celebrated hot air balloon set-piece is converted into a truly heart-jolting sequence, the camera heaving upwards with each new blast of wind. And, as Joe's neat existence falls apart, tidily-framed shots are replaced by ones that lurch like a lovesick drunk.
While such measures help lift the story from its literary roots, the director could have trimmed the tale down further. It may also prove too cold an exercise for some, the moral ambiguity meaning there's no-one to really root for. Still, that doesn't stop it from being an effective study of deeply twisted love.
Some great acting and visuals make up for this thriller's frostiness.