Unfaithful

2002. 124 minutes. Rated R.
 

“Be happy for this moment, for this moment is your life.”

Had I known beforehand that the director of this film, Adrian Lyne, is also the director of Fatal Attraction, I probably would not have watched it. You see, when I went to see Fatal Attraction in the movie theater, I missed most of the movie because I was hiding under my jacket. Glenn Close’s character Alex scared the you-know-what out of me! However I did watch Unfaithful, and while I knew there would be violence (because of the R rating), I was willing to watch it, because… I LOVE Diane Lane! I’ve just always liked her style and this movie cemented that feeling for me. I had read her portrayal of unfaithful wife Connie Sumner described as her best performance ever (I agree).

Despite the little bit of violence, this movie was the perfect mix of sadness, sex, surprise, surrender, and suspense. I was impressed with the acting of Lane and Richard Gere as the doting husband Edward. I thought the plot had all the twists and turns of thriller. The most important part of this film for me was the raw emotion it exuded and evoked. I laughed, I cried, I freaked out. I warn you, the sex scenes are steamy, no, more than that, they are HOT! It all works because the story is so good and the actors are great! So let me tell you a bit more about this movie.

Based on the French film, La Femme Infidele, this is the story of Edward (Gere) and Connie (Lane), a loving, happily married, upper-middle class couple living in the suburbs of New York City with their son Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan). It appears they live the idyllic life. They own a big house decorated with every Pottery Barn style accessory and with plenty of room for the three of them to live more than comfortably. Edward is the owner of a trucking company, which gives them enough money so that Connie doesn’t need to work, and travel is something they can afford to do often. Connie and Edward truly love each other and their life together, and both adore doting on their son. Which is why what happens next is so–well–SHOCKING.

On one of her trips into the city to collect donations for a school fundraiser, Connie is caught in a freak windstorm and is “saved” by the tall, dark, and handsome Frenchman, Paul (Olivier Martinez). Paul, with his model good looks and sensuous French accent, invites Connie to his apartment where she immediately recognizes her attraction–and panics. But, a few days later she is back, and thus begins an intense sexual affair between the older housewife and the younger man.

Paul’s sex appeal would make any woman swoon and Connie cannot deny it. He introduces her to an eroticism she has never known with her husband, and she cannot get enough. Many of their encounters occur in public places (movie theater, restaurant bathroom, hallway) which adds to the thrill of the experience for Connie. This is only the beginning. Not long after, Edward notices a change in his wife, and hires someone to follow her. When he finds out about the affair, he is devastated. What happens next though, is not what you might expect from the director of Fatal Attraction. Lyne takes the film in a different direction, which in my opinion, makes this film more thrilling and sad (emotions evoked). I actually turned the film off at this point and took a little break before finishing watching it. I won’t spoil the ending for you because it is just that good.

The tone of the film, set by the scenery, lighting, music, and color choices, helps make the story more believable. The use of a lot of gray, blue, black and white lends to the gloomy feel, as does the constant rain. You can’t be happy when there is so much physical and emotional darkness around.

Unfaithful is about choices, and living with the consequences of our choices. Connie, Paul, and Edward make different choices, but all of their choices have negative consequences, and they must accept them. When Connie, who loves her husband, is faced with the choice of having an affair, she hesitates, more than once. In the end, she is overcome by the passion and emotion she feels when she is with Paul. Is she bored? Is it the circumstances of meeting Paul when she does? Would she have had an affair with someone else? We do not know. Why does Paul have an affair? He knows Connie is married. We find out late in the movie that Paul is married, but Connie never knew that. Knowing the affair could ruin her life, Connie chooses to pursue Paul, and Paul willingly obliges her desires. Even when her friend, without knowing she is having an affair, warns her about affairs “always ending disastrously,” Connie continues to meet Paul.

The actors do an incredible job of making you feel what their characters are feeling. The emotions flow freely and you experience the pleasure and pain right along with them. After the first sexual encounter between Connie and Paul, we see and feel her emotional battle, as she relives the euphoria of the experience, and then realizes the reality of what she has done, cheated on the husband she loves. One minute she is a giddy school girl, the next, a teary, remorseful, unfaithful wife. We feel her torment, because Diane Lane makes us feel it. Likewise, when Edward finds out about the affair, we feel his anger, disgust, and hurt. Gere nails it (not something I expected from him), and I cried right along with him. I’ve never been cheated on, but I think I know how I’d feel after watching this.

This film has a powerful message to share with the audience about choices and consequences. It isn’t always easy to watch, as we suspect it won’t end well. When Connie tells Paul she has made a mistake, he sees it differently. “There is no such thing as a mistake. There are things you do, and things you don’t.” Make seeing this film one of the things you do.

Author: Beth Kerrigan

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1 Comment

  1. Great work, Beth. I just watched this movie again a couple of weeks ago in a hotel overlooking the suez canal. I almost barfed when Gere bludgeons Paul. I forgot how dark the film can be. It reads like a pick your adventure book, except for the fact that the characters never listen when I want to choose which way the story unfolds. Cheers!

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