Directed by Adrian Lyne
Well, I wasn’t expecting this. Unfaithful isn’t just a good movie, it’s a great movie. Wow.
The movie takes an almost Shakespearean approach to its subject in the way that it unfolds relentlessly. It’s all about character, a flaw, and a seemingly inevitable string of consequences.
Diane Lane’s character has an affair. The movie provides no motivation for this and, while a first this seems a mistake, I think in the end it is one of the things that makes it most true. It is simply a mindless, unreasoning passion that takes over the life of the unfaithful wife.
In any event, this affair happens and the film is very good at showing how it happens.
Lane is slowly drawn in but the closer she approaches the relationship the more quickly it proceeds until it is as if she’s pulled into a vortex of sex and lies.
The consequences all occur with an almost deterministic logic. Richard Gere’s character begins getting hints of the affair almost immediately. They are nothing he can put a finger on, just a sense of distance from his wife.
Slowly, this sense of distance develops into suspicions and once again everything proceeds with a tragic logic.
The film works in a number of ways but certainly the key to its success lies in the performances, and acting choices, of Lane, Gere and director Adrian Lyne.
Lane’s unfaithful wife displays every conflict she experiences in her face and movements: the passion, guilt, anger, childlike sense of play, and anguish. Every emotion of a relationship like this is shown with precise accuracy.
Gere is also tremendous in the way he portrays the husband, especially in the scene where he meets his wife’s lover. He portrays him, here, almost somnabulistically.
Somehow, his feet have taken him to where the lovers meet. He walks around the room, talks with his wife’s lover, all the while in a kind of uncomprehending daze.
It’s a great choice the filmmaker’s have made in deciding to refrain from scenes of rage and recrimination and rather portray the married couple as two people who have become lost in events that somehow seem outside of themselves.
They are like puzzled pawns in some horrible chain of inexorable events.
The overall look and tone of the movie is also bang on, from the opening sequence of peaceful images (against music that undermines them with an ironic dark tone), to the stillness of the final, ambiguous image.
In fact, the film overall works to a great extent because it resists going down obvious roads and rather makes choices that seem to go in the opposite direction.
The look and feel of the movie, quiet and methodical, is in complete contrast to the subject — chaotic passion. Choices like this are what make this movie work so well.
Unfaithful has to be one of the best surprises I’ve come across this year and it is certainly one of my favourite movies of 2002.
It also has Diane Lane’s best performance, as well as Richard Gere’s. Special features on the DVD are also great in that they focus on the script and performances and provide interesting insights.
© 2003 Piddleville Inc.