"This is a diary of hate," is the first line uttered in Neil Jordan's
_The_End_of_the_Affair_. However, that line could not be a more
inaccurate description of this film, for it is a beautifully passionate
and extremely romantic screen treatment of Graham Greene's novel.
Even though the words "the end" are in the title,
_The_End_of_the_Affair_ is about a love's survival, but--as the words
"the affair" suggest--that love is forbidden. The film opens on one
rainy night in London in 1946, where writer Maurice Bendrix (Ralph
Fiennes) runs into old friend Henry Miles (Stephen Rea) by chance. Henry
tells Maurice that he suspects his wife Sarah (Julianne Moore) is having
an affair--words that hit close to home for Maurice: two years ago, he
and Sarah had an affair themselves, and his reacquaintance with the
couple just reignites his obsessive love for her.
Jordan, who also scripted, follows a complex structure that weaves back
and forth through past, present, and future. The film is held together
by Maurice's aforementioned "diary of hate," which looks back on his
investigation into Sarah's suspicious 1946 doings, not to mention the
origins of his relationship with her. The two meet at a party to which
Maurice is invited by Henry, and their attraction is fiery and
immediate--as is the electricity between Fiennes and Moore. The pair
absolutely sizzle together in addition to having a palpable romantic
chemistry, and their steamy yet swoony scenes together show that
eroticism and romance do not necessarily have to exist independently of
While _The_End_of_the_Affair_ is indeed about a love triangle, it's not
between the parties it would appear to be. In fact, the film is as much
of a mystery as it is a traditional love story. The central narrative
mystery is that of the reasons why the affair between Maurice and Sarah
ended in the first place, which gives way into an even larger and deeper
mystery. Some critics have taken issue with the handling of the latter
turn, but the fact that I was able to accept such a sharp twist so
unconditionally is a tribute to the remarkable finesse of Jordan's
direction; I was caught up in the story enough to accept wherever it was
That, of course, is as much the actors' doing as it is Jordan's.
Fiennes and Moore are both wrenching in depicting their characters'
soul-aching longing and bringing to life their characters' individual
aspects. While one does feel his character's pain, he doesn't downplay
the dark nature of his obsession. Moore has a perhaps more difficult
task as her character undergoes the most radical shift in the film, but
she pulls off the job without hitting a false note. Likely to go
unnoticed alongside such rich star turns is Rea, but his poignantly
subtle work is every bit as impressive as that of his co-stars.
_The_End_of_the_Affair_ is indeed, when boiled down to the bare
essentials, a melodrama that employs all the conventional tactics of
emotional manipulation. What is hardly conventional, however, is how
beautifully and genuinely moving the execution is.