Movie Magazine International

The End of the Affair

USA - 1999

Movie Review By Heather Clisby

Based on the autobiographical novel by Graham Greene, "The End of the Affair" is the new film from Director Neil Jordan. It is the simple story of a man, a woman, another man, a detective, a detective's son, a priest, a god - excuse me - THE God, war, love, sex, death, miracles and promises. Okay, so maybe it's not so simple but life's like that sometimes, especially when you're a novelist.

Ralph Fiennes is Maurice Bendrix, based on Greene himself, as the passionate writer who has a steamy affair with his friend's wife. The friend is the dull government official Henry Miles, played by the sublime Stephen Rea. His beautiful wife of ten years is Sarah Miles, played by national treasure Julienne Moore.

The collective talent of these three actors is highly effective. Instead of ripping one's heart out, this emotional force comes into your body cavity rather quietly and slowly starts squeezing. By the end of the film, you are firmly in its' grip but you can't exactly remember succumbing.

Initially, it seems a film about adultery but the story has many fine layers, like philo dough. The year is 1939 and the place is England and though the lovebirds have grown used to - comforted even - by the Blitz happening all around them, there is one particular afternoon where a bomb strikes much too close and Maurice is hit. Sarah then leaves the affair with a devastated and confused Maurice behind.

Here's where God and religion comes into it in a philosophical back-door kinda way. Though her father was Jewish, Sarah's Catholic mother had her baptized Catholic. "She always hoped it would take," Sarah explained. Well, it does, in a big, big way.

Somewhere in the middle and in between all this (there are a few time jumps) is a strange friendship between two men who couldn't be more opposite. Maurice is an outspoken artist and Henry is a sedated civil servant yet there is a faithfulness there that doesn't exist in the marriage. Eventually, they end up looking after one another - the betrayed and his betrayer.

At one point, Henry considers hiring a private detective to determine Sarah's faithfulness, then changes his mind. Curiously enough, Maurice opts to hire the gumshoe himself and have his own affair investigated. This puzzles Mr. Parkus and his helpful son, Lancelot, who have been assigned the case, two unlikely characters who prove to be quite pivotal.

In short, Neil Jordan has done it again. Novel-to-film is a hard road to take and I shudder to think what might've happened to this story in less capable hands. This is quality, folks, it doesn't happen every day.

© 1999 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 12/1/99

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