November 15, 2002 -- "Unfaithful" is a morality tale with a sharp edge to it. The film explores the consequences of an extra-marital affair by a woman. It is exceptionally well acted by Diane Lane of "The Glass House") and by Richard Gere of "The Mothman Prophecies." It also avoids wrapping up the drama in a nice, neat little package. It raises some disturbing questions and provides no easy answers.
Lane plays Connie Sumner, and Gere plays her husband Richard, a high-powered New York businessman. The two are living happily in a country estate when the story starts. Connie starts an affair with a French book dealer, Paul Martel (Olivier Martinez of "Before Night Falls") after a chance encounter. Her passion erupts during the love affair and her emotions threaten to overwhelm her. She literally loses control of herself. Richard notices that something is seriously wrong and he hires a detective to follow her. He doesn't want to believe what is happening to his family. He hopes his suspicions are wrong. When he finally faces the truth he decides to take action. Things deteriorate rapidly. Tragic consequences ensue.
Lane turns in a powerful performance as a woman whose emotions run away with her. She hates herself for what she has become, but finds herself powerless to stop the affair. Sexually, she is a tiger in the film. This is not the first time Lane has played this kind of role. She also played the part of an unfaithful wife in "A Walk on the Moon." Martinez is also convincing as her manipulative lover. He knows what buttons to push. His techniques are unusual and interesting. The love scenes between the two are very intense and convincing. Gere's performance is more reserved, but shows some nice subtlety. Richard is slow to anger, but when his anger finally shows itself, it is explosive. Erik Per Sullivan is good as the Sumner's son, Charlie. He has the funniest scene in the movie in the early part of the film.
Cinematographer Peter Biziou ("The Truman Show") does a nice job helping to maintain the film's intense mood with some good lighting choices. The love scenes are well-photographed. Director Adrian Lyne ("Jacob's Ladder") maintains tension throughout the film. One scene involving a minor traffic accident has a nice Hitchcockian feel to it. The whole idea of seemingly normal people living with a terrible secret and hoping that no one will discover it, is a device for maintaining tension that is seldom seen these days, but Hitchcock used it to good effect many times. The soundtrack includes some interesting African music. The story, based on the film, "La Femme Infidele" is fairly simple and straightforward, but it is emotionally complex. It offers no easy answers to the dilemma the Sumners find themselves in towards the end of the film. The pace of the film is a bit slow and the story seems a bit unfinished at the end, but it is powerful and thought-provoking. This film rates a C+.
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