ON A windy day in New York complacent, bored wife Connie Sumner (Diane Lane) bumps into Paul Martel, a sexy French bibliophile (Olivier Martinez). Before she knows what’s going on she is seeing him often, calling at his book-lined apartment.
It is a housewife’s fascination with a younger man. Perhaps inevitably it turns into a full-blown affair. One day she gives in, shaking with desire, shame and self-loathing as he seduces her. “You’re in my brain before I even open my eyes,” she tells the Gallic beefcake.
Connie and Paul continue to meet for regular and increasingly energetic sex sessions. He has her in restaurant toilets, cinemas and within his apartment. It’s all sordid and seedy, yet deliciously daring for a married woman with a 12-year-marriage behind her. She can’t help herself.
Afterwards, on the train, she smiles as she recalls the excitement of her infidelity. In the bathroom at home she touches herself, but breaks off as her unknowing husband, Edward (Richard Gere), enters. Life apparently goes on as normal, but Connie can’t disguise her infidelity forever. Almost from the outset Edward suspects that his perfect wife is hiding something. Meanwhile Connie and Paul continue their affair with abandon.
This latest sex drama from Adrian (Fatal Attraction) Lyne ploughs straight into the main plotline – the affair – with no explanation of why it has occurred. Connie is bored, but she doesn’t know it. Something deep down inside her is awakened when she meets this sexy Frenchman several years her junior. It isn’t that she doesn’t love her husband or wishes to escape her life of quiet monotony. At least, she isn’t aware if she does.
Martinez as Martel is exciting, edgy and dangerous in the way that her husband once was. Now Edward – safe, comfortable – is too busy keeping his business afloat to recognise that his wife needs more than a snuggle every now and again.
Such is the main strength of Unfaithful. It provides all of the traditionally asked questions but offers no glib answers. Instead it focuses on the destructive effects of a philandering spouse.
The most emotionally charged scene comes when Martinez is confronted by the man he has cuckolded. Gere’s barely controlled rage is evident and gripping and the next few minutes that follow provide the dramatic heart of the story. His performance allows you to forgive him for every bad part he’s ever played and every film he’s ever walked through. Martinez cannot compete.
Unfaithful has Hitchcockian pretensions, mainly courtesy of Gere’s performance. It’s all about secrets, lies and deceptions. In essence the movie is a complex morality tale where infidelity leads directly to the worst of crimes and in which a marriage based on trust becomes one based on a rocky foundation of deceit.
Puzzlingly Unfaithful doesn’t draw any judgements as the various plotlines are drawn out. It’s not remotely like Fatal Attraction, where the villain of the piece was a psycho. Here the only ‘villains’ are lust and a smooth-tongued Frenchman.
Lane is superb as the American beauty sliding into middle age, while Martinez gets female pulse rates racing as the Euro stud. Kate Burton (daughter of Richard) also shines in a brief cameo as a wise pal who warns Lane, tellingly, against the prospect of extra marital affairs.