Keeping The Faith

Oh, what a tangled web we weave...

Fidelity. Infidelity. All eyes on the errant fiddle. "Unfaithful" is an excellent film that analyses and superbly portrays the discord between the ménage de trois of a husband, his wife and her lover. In his closely quartered drama, Adrian Lyne has explored the juggernaut that arises out of seemingly symmetric liaisons and the illicit turn they can eventually take.

Connie Sumner (Diane Lane) is pretty. She’s a good wife and a committed mother to her son Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan). Her husband, Edward Sumner (Richard Gere), is a well-heeled businessman, completing the line drawing of a perfect domestic unit. Their bliss is broken the fateful day Connie ventures into New York from their home in the suburbs, when an unforgiving wind knock her into gorgeous Frenchman Paul Martel (Olivier Martinez).

A casual invitation to his apartment sparks off an attraction that set into motion an adulterous affair, gifting her with an alternate double life, wholly anonymous to her family. Rising the risky ranks of an illicit involvement, Connie becomes more adventurous in her trysts with Paul, slowly letting slip the veil of conceit. Suspecting foul play, Edward has her shadowed, and learns soon enough of his wife’s extracurricular employments. Attempting to confront her paramour, he visits Paul’s apartment, and a somewhat strained confrontation has him seized by a fit of anger, during which he murders Paul.

At the very same moment, Connie decides to end the affair. Unaware of her husband’s crime, she makes an attempt at normalcy in the household, while Edward is now the one gripped with guilt. When Paul’s body is identified by the cops, they come sniffing at the door, suspecting Connie of having polished off her Parisian. With closet skeletons baring their bones, secrets no longer remain veiled.

A film which, despite all its exuberance of colour, reminds me primarily of shades of gray. Like no man’s land between good and bad, the gray typifies the moral dilemmas plaguing both Connie and Edward, and ironically arouses affinity for the politically-more-heinous crime. Taking the film by the frame in the first half, Lane poignantly pictures a woman sexually charged on the one hand and attempting to showcase a conventional front on the other. Her diametric dealings with her husband, lover and son exhibit her three varied personalities, shifting shape with every added measure of time spent with each.

When Gere takes over in the latter half, his revision from a moderate, impressionable character into one that commits murder and logically erases signs of his crime emerges so effectively that it is attributed utterly to these radical events.

There isn’t a single member of the cast that doesn’t belong. The performances are brilliantly phrased and the founding premises of the film - guilt and suspicion - are given full ballast. Lyne, who was inspired by the French film "La Femme Infidele" has elevated the feeling of foreboding by muting most scenes, only allowing a faintly discernable score to come through. This adds to the visual vibrancy of the film. The picture is built to deliver the necessary, and often a dose more, whether it be via the feral love scenes between Connie and Paul, the emotional impasses suffering Connie and Edward or even the casual sex appeal of Paul and his apartment.

With a script written essentially in body language, the film flows with fluid ease, and is well worth a look.

This article was first published on 23 Sep 2002.