Edward and Connie Sumner (Richard Gere and Diane Lane) live a fairly idyllic life in the suburbs with their 8-year-old son Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan). Even though they have a seemingly happy if somewhat mundane marriage Connie is drawn to a gorgeous French rare book dealer Paul (Oliver Martinez) who she literally crashes into one day on the streets of Manhattan. Their passionate affair opens up a whole world of sexual possibilities for her. Yet it quickly spirals into an obsession for Connie a cycle she knows she has to break before it destroys her family--and her sanity. Unfortunately she makes this decision too late; Edward has already discovered her infidelity. Rather than going straight to Connie a tormented Edward confronts Paul and the meeting unleashes a fury in Edward he didn't know he was capable of. Now Connie and Edward must face the consequences of their actions but can they do it together?
A three-character piece is always a tough framework for a movie because you have to rely heavily on the acting rather than on the action. Luckily for Unfaithful everyone shines. Gere veers off his usual path as Edward a man trying desperately to hold onto his wife. He sheds that cocky attitude he likes to infuse in his other characters and digs deep to find other emotions. Gere doesn't quite match up to Lane though. An underrated actress Lane comes alive in this film her performance is unlike anything we've seen from her before. Even as she is breaking the vows of her marriage she does it with such an elegant mixture of pleasure and guilt--and we don't hate her for it. She's too real. Connie's first love scene with Paul is incredibly powerful and it's framed by Lane's reaction to it--she sits on the train remembering every detail of the encounter. It's a brilliant scene. This may be jumping the gun but Lane could quite possibly snag an Oscar nomination for her performance--and you heard it here first. As the third piece in the puzzle Martinez (Before Night Falls) does a nice job as Paul full of youth and bravado--just like a good lover should be. Too bad things don't end well for him.
Plain and simple director Adrian Lyne knows how to make a great movie about sex. No make that steamy sex. But the sex he tends to outline in painstaking details usually comes at great costs as in his films 9 ½ Weeks Fatal Attraction and now Unfaithful. The film is definitely one of his best allowing more of a maturity--a reality--to shine through than in any of his other films. Lyne loosely bases it on a 1968 French film La Femme Infidèle exploring how a relationship can be affected by deception and guilt. The story written by Alvin Sargent (Ordinary People) expertly shifts from Connie's perspective to Edward's and never falls into pat Hollywood scenarios. This isn't about sex and murder; it's about two people who are faced with what they have done and how they find redemption in each other. Lyne never veers from that idea. Most importantly Unfaithful will hit a chord with many people because it can happen to anyone of us at any time.