The dreariness of the rain and the bleak surroundings of bomb-shelled London represents the blandness of The End of the Affair, a movie that could have easily been something, but just wasn't.
The End of the Affair should really only rely on one thing and one thing alone, and that is acting. The movie is almost completely dialogue driven, and who better to star than Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore, and Stephen Rea, all Oscar-worthy actors. Unfortunately, acting isn't everything, and really, the acting is nothing to scream about. I find all of the actors very good at what they do, but their portrayals, easily helped by the boring script, do not for a moment create any sense of compassion for them from the audience.
Fiennes stars as the jealous man who is in love, and really does have, the wife of his friend. He is so in love with her that not for once does he consider the feelings of his friend. After the affair is over, and his friend (surprisingly, they are still friends) thinks that she is seeing someone else, Fiennes hires a private detective to spy on her, even though she is no longer of his concern. This is what we see in Fiennes' character, a man so jealous he is twisted beyond common sense and morality.
Moore should come off as the woman who loves her husband but is torn away by a man she loves more, but she doesn't. She never loves her husband in the first place and treats him impartially, which divorces all conflict from the movie. She goes into Fiennes' arms without any interest in saving her marriage. Furthermore, her performance, though praised by some, seems flat and unemotional, and not real.
Stephen Rea is the most confusing character of all. He plays the husband who evidently knows that his wife had an affair with his friend, but doesn't seem to care. No emotions peak in his somber face throughout the entirety of the film, and he is about as monotone as they come. When he speaks with Fiennes in the present setting (1946), he is well aware that they had an affair, yet he does not act like they had an affair. In fact, he even invites Fiennes to live with him near the end.
Now, the plot may have some bearing on Rea's character, for if it isn't obvious from the first couple of minutes of the film, Moore's character is dying. The movie tries to hide the fact and make it a sad surprise at the end, but her coughing tells us right off the bat. So perhaps Rea wants his disinterested wife to be happy in her final days, but would any man just invite his wife's lover in as a good friend?
The movie is visually quite stunning, though sometimes bleak in appearance, and the soundtrack is excellent, but the technical merits of the film can't help the fact that it is dominated by characters that none of the audience cares about. The characters are morally inept and not at all interesting, and I do not think I cared for a second when Moore dies. The very fact that Moore dies seems weak, since it has happened in countless movies before. Furthermore, the remaining portion of the movie after her death continues to go downhill, as Fiennes continues to react insensibly.
A good deal of the movie is not that bad, but the characters and the ending make the movie seem longer than it really is. The End of the Affair is disappointing, to say the least, as it could have been a great film.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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