The End of the Affair
People don't cough in movies, so when Sarah Miles (Julianne Moore) coughs in writer/director Neil Jordan's tale of love, sex, and jealousy in World War II London, one of two bad things is going to happen. Either she's going to drop her knickers and haul out a penis, or she's going to die. Since Jordan has already done the penis thing before, we know Sarah's a goner.
This is so obviously a film that could only take place in Britain that it's painful. Sarah is mired in a loveless marriage to Henry (Stephen Rea), who's a civil servant. When she meets novelist Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes), they embark on a torrid love affair which ends abruptly when Bendrix's house is bombed and he is nearly killed. Sarah inexplicably leaves him, and Bendrix is so consumed with jealousy, rage, and furor that he sinks to the basest, most animal level on the British emotional charts -- he thinks badly of her.
So, you've got a jealous lover, a jilted husband, and a dying woman. Naturally, confrontations abound, but because this is Britain -- and 1940's Britain, at that -- nobody gets upset, they discuss. Maurice and Sarah discuss. Henry and Maurice discuss. Henry and Sarah discuss. This film is so unbelievably reserved that by the end, when Henry finally confronts Bendrix, even nuns will be screaming, "Kick the fucker's ass!"
We Americans may not be very couth, but at least we know how to kick some ass. This Henry is some kind of wuss, too. Bendrix needed to open up a can of whup-ass on Henry if only to get something resembling an emotion out of him. Really, the Ralph Fiennes part should have been played by Dolph Lundgren or Tiny Lister -- someone to whom the words "loveless marriage" meant "big-time butt whompin'." Instead, what we get at the end of this film is Bendrix bringing Henry milk and cookies and saying "I'm sorry." It almost makes you wish those Germans had been a little more accurate.
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