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End of the Affair

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: End of the Affair

Starring: Julianne Moore, Ralph Fiennes
Director: Neil Jordan
Rated: R
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: December 1999
Genres: Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Ian Hart, Stephen Rea, Sam Bould, James Bolam, Jason Isaacs

Review by Walter Frith
1 star out of 4

Film maker Neil Jordan made one of the most controversial movies of the 1990's. 1992's 'The Crying Game' had a secret revealed by the now late great former movie critic Gene Siskel and Siskel was heavily criticized for revealing it. He said that to make his point he felt it was necessary to give away the secret that was shocking (and in some cases offensive) to many people. Jordan ended up winning an Oscar for the film's original screenplay and stunningly original it was, filled with observations about the IRA, its volunteers and the rash political and sexual overtones of the film's characters. Jordan seemed surprised by winning an Oscar and had to rush up on stage after a quick trip back from the men's room.

Seven years later, Neil Jordan's 'The End of the Affair' feels like you bought an old house, cleaned it out and in the process, found and read the callous diary of an adulteress and you picture it with all of its soap opera type qualities from stories you've read about and seen a thousand times. This isn't such a bad thing but the movie's reasoning that it is great film making is a legend in its own mind. Actor Ralph Fiennes was said to be very upset with the adult rating the film received but that rating is justified as this movie displays acts of sex, violence and repressed feelings taken during and after World War II.

The story of 'The End of the Affair' is based on an early 1950's novel by Graham Greene, allegedly about his own experiences during WW II. Stephen Rea is a government member named Henry Miles and is married to Sarah (Julianne Moore). Writer Maurice Bendix (Ralph Fiennes) is her lover. The Catholic faith is used as a metaphor for the story's hidden range of ideas and any film that combines a dash of religion and heavy doses of adultery during the backdrop of history's darkest time certainly deserves a look. It's just unfortunate that this film tries to use repetition to make a point but makes it in a rather tiresome fashion.

The movie has a point of view from its main characters that is told separately by each one and the perilous, if perhaps co-incidental fate that comes to one of them, is rather pretentious and smells like a theme from the golden age of cinema, unsuitable for many of today's movie buffs, but fitting for others at the same time.

'The End of the Affair' may be too melodramatic for some. It was for me. It had me restlessly shifting in my seat at about half way through but I found it very authentic looking. There are three key scenes that glow with authenticity. The beginning where two of the male leads meet on a dark and rainy English night is ripe with authenticity. The indoor scene at the Miles' residence is lavishly decorated with authentic props for its era. There is also a diner scene where director of photography Roger Pratt takes cues from Neil Jordan and moves his camera to play out the reeling emotions the two lovers have in wrestling with their conscience.

What is disappointing about the film is the performance of Ralph Fiennes. His turns in 1993's 'Schindler's List' which brought him instant fame and stature in motion pictures and a well deserved Oscar nomination, along with his dry and coldly laced Oscar nominated performance in 'The English Patient' seem so memorable compared to his performance here. I don't want to be too hard on him because he is one of the best in the business but he just seems to be saying his lines with all the feelings of a daytime soap opera actor. The same can be said for Julianne Moore. Her performance is better but is still one character we've seen played over and over again with many of the similar qualities of past adulteresses.

Neil Jordan's direction is inventive at times, stiff at times and too heavy handed in many places for me to recommend it but there is an old saying that goes: "The only thing new is the history you don't know". 'The End of the Affair' isn't a new theme, it's a film with a historical past seen too often in motion pictures and is wearing thin at the start of a new century.

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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