End of the Affair [1999]

Director: Neil Jordan
Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore, Stephen Rea, Heather-Jay Jones, James Bolam
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 102 minutes

The End of the Affair (1999) "This is a diary of hate," pounds out novelist Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes) on his typewriter as he recounts the lost love of his life in this spiritual memoir (based on Graham Greene's novel) with a startling twist. It's London 1946, and Maurice runs into his achingly dull school friend Henry (Stephen Rea with a perpetually gloomy hangdog expression). Their meeting is brittle, all small talk and chilly, mannered civility beautifully captured by director-screenwriter Neil Jordan (The Crying Game), and it only barely thaws when Henry suggests that his wife Sarah (the luminous Julianne Moore) may be having an affair. Maurice's mind reels back to his passionate affair with Sarah during the war years, which she abruptly broke off two years ago, and gripped with a jealousy that hasn't abated he hires a private detective (a mousy, marvelous Ian Hart) to shadow her movements. He prepares himself for the revelation of a rival, but instead finds a deeper, more profound secret: "I tempted fate," she writes in her diary, "and fate accepted." Jordan's cool remove captures the unease beneath formal manners but never warms into intimacy during the scenes between the lovers, even while Fiennes and Moore almost explode in repressed emotions, their faces cracking under their masks of civility and their resolve shaking through jittery body language. There's more thought than feeling behind this collision of passion and spirituality, but it's a sincere, richly realized portrait of ennui and rage against God energized by brief moments of shattering drama. --Sean Axmaker The End of the Affair (1955) For its first minutes, The End of the Affair looks like it's going to be a standard "two tortured souls who know they shouldn't be having an affair but are going to keep on doing it anyway" movie. Fortunately, it gets more interesting than that. Van Johnson plays Maurice Bendrix, an American author in wartime England. While attending a cocktail party of noble civil servant Henry Miles (Peter Cushing), he accidentally catches a glimpse of Henry's wife, Sarah (Deborah Kerr), kissing another man. Fascinated, he arranges to meet her, and the two start an affair. Maurice, unable to get Sarah's previous infidelity out of his mind, gets clingy and suspicious; Sarah tells him they can't meet anymore and goes back to Henry, and that's that. Or is it? Maurice is unable to let go of Sarah, and as he investigates he finds out there was far more to the end of their affair than he thought. Kerr has by far the most difficult job of the film, playing several layers of deception as the coolly efficient civil servant's wife with more than one unexpected passion hiding just below the surface. Peter Cushing also does quietly good work, touchingly playing what could have been a thankless Wronged Husband role. Indeed, most of the usual standards are fleshed out in surprising ways in this strange and earnest little movie. Like its heroine, The End of the Affair takes a grim surface story and gradually reveals the unexpected passions underneath. (Based on the novel by Graham Greene and remade in 1999 with Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes.) --Ali Davis

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