The End of the Affair

Directed by Neil Jordan
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore, Stephen Rea, Ian Hart, Sam Bould.
MPAA Rating: R for scenes of strong sexuality.

Review by Matt Heffernan
January 7, 2000

It's been nearly 60 years since Citizen Kane, and only now are non-linear storylines becoming popular in films. This time it's based on a post-World War II novel by Graham Greene, proving that a story doesn't have to be new to make a modern, innovative film.

In 1946, novelist Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes) runs into his old friend Henry Miles (Stephen Rea), whom he hasn't seen in two years. Henry suspects that his wife, Sarah (Julianne Moore), is cheating on him, so he asks Maurice to go to a private detective on his behalf. Maurice declines, but then goes to the agency behind Henry's back, and hires Mr. Parkis (Ian Hart) to follow Sarah around.

What drives him to do this is jealousy -- severe jealousy that he has harbored for her for many years. Back in 1939, they began a five-year affair, making love as bombs dropped around London. Now, two years after the sudden end of their relationship, he is once again obsessed with her.

There's so much to love about this film, it's difficult to begin. First of all, the story itself is wonderful, and director Neil Jordan tells it in an ingenious way. The investigation and the affair are shown in parallel, subtly revealing the relationships between all the characters at different times. By the end, a rich fabric of emotions and conflict has been woven, pulling the audience into a compelling finale.

Helping it along is Jordan's crisp screenplay. He has taken Greene's ironic wit, and made the characters both funny and pathetic at the same time. Of course, a great cast is required for this material, and they all deliver. Moore has proven that her British accent is her ticket to acclaim: she has been nominated for Golden Globes for The End of the Affair and An Ideal Husband (apparently her native tongue wasn't sufficient in Magnolia).

Basically, The End of the Affair is the best Greene-inspired film since The Third Man. 1999 was also the best year in Orson Welles' career since then. His influence is becoming stronger, and the second century of film is looking pretty bright. He would be so proud to see these films today, as long as he avoids Angus MacFayden's maniacal portrayal of him in Cradle Will Rock.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
The End of the Affair (1999)

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The End of the Affair (1999) -- VHS
The End of the Affair (1999) -- DVD
The End of the Affair, a novel by Graham Greene -- Paperback
The End of the Affair, a novel by Graham Greene -- Audio Cassette (read by Michael Kitchen)
The End of the Affair: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc Home
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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan