An affair to forget: The End of the Affair, a film review.

I’ve never had an affair, and I haven’t had the need, desire, or understanding of everything that must align or become misaligned to start one. However, I did have the need and want to find a romantic movie (one I hadn’t seen into oblivion) to watch with my spouse over Valentine’s Day.

Like most couples, when Valentine’s Day is on a weekday (like this year), my husband and I celebrate by staying in, making dinner, and watching a movie. And just as many people choose relationships, we decided on a film we thought had great promise—

The End of the Affair (1999), starring Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore, and Stephen Rea, is about a love triangle between a married couple and their friend. See? Promise!

In writing a review, I realized that the movie was like an affair (or at least how I imagined it).

It started with an undeniable attraction…something different from our everyday movie or streaming show. In this case, it was a different genre, time, and place, shot in breathtaking water-colored hues of London, England (1939-1946). Also, frankly, the actors weren’t bad to look at either!

Then came the draw…okay, you’ve got my attention. What’s keeping me here? What’s the hook? Film-wise, it was a delicious one-liner by the protagonist, the lonely and morose writer (Fiennes), pounding away on his typewriter, “This is a diary of hate.”

Next was the intrigue…The writer (Fiennes) walks in a dreary storm and bumps into an old friend (Rea) who seems confused. The writer helps the friend back home, leading to the tease—

From Fiennes’ perspective, we see a slice of the past, a flash of a leg (presumably Moore’s) running up the stairs in this friend’s house. It occurs to the audience that Fiennes has been here and knows it intimately, and we, as spectators, need more, want more! So, we continue to watch with excitement and anticipation for…Sex!

A leg, an arm, yes, Moore’s breasts, and yes, a shot of Fiennes’ ass, but also kissing and passion. So far, so good, until, suddenly, out of nowhere, it isn’t. And that’s the rub!

I imagine a real affair gets complicated when fact and fiction overlap. When your real-life comes face to face with this newly created one. It’s startling and confusing—very much like the strange nonlinear plot of this movie.

We see flashbacks and flashforwards. Back and forth, back and forth, only we aren’t sure what is backward and what is forwards, or if the present is in this scene or that one. On top of which, none of the costumes or scenery is different enough to distinguish between the past, present, or future, resulting in chaos! I wondered what this was supposed to be? Is flashforward/flashback some type of foreplay? FYI, foreplay without purpose is just a countdown to disappointment and tears. Everyone knows that!

Anyway, there was no reason the plot couldn’t have been told in a straight, cohesive, coherent line. The story could remain the same, too!

The couple meets the lone writer, and they become friends. The writer and the wife have an affair (which, by the way, isn’t something new for the wife, she seems to have them often).

Of course, the writer wants the wife to leave her cold and distant husband, who, when he walks in the house during a particular vocal moment, the writer dismounts the wife, worried they’ve been heard, and the wife says something like, “Don’t worry, he wouldn’t recognize what that sound is.”

From this point of view, the affair makes sense. Why wouldn’t she want someone she can get vocal, like, really vocal, with?

Everything’s going along well when suddenly, the affair ends without the writer knowing why exactly. The writer almost dies, lives, and the wife takes off, telling him, “Love doesn’t end just because we don’t see each other.” Uh, it doesn’t help!

After a couple of years, the writer bumps into the husband during a rainstorm (the movie’s beginning). The husband thinks his wife is having an affair, and the writer decides to hire a private investigator to see who the wife’s side piece is (because why is she making so many dental appointments only to see a priest?)

Then the wife changes her mind, starts the affair with the writer again, and for some reason, kisses the private investigator’s son’s birth-marked face and is apparently cursed for it, or is it for the affair?

Lastly, (I think it was or was it first?) the three friends move in together like one big, big, happy throuple. Except, no happy endings here—no vocal lesson for anybody! The End. What?

Okay, maybe the squirrely plot isn’t the only weirdo thing we had to contend with!

We all know how an affair goes down, even us speculators. The affair happens, complications mount, the experience ends, the jilted lover can’t let go, the lovers get back together, and again, it doesn’t work out, and the rejected lover writes a book about it, The End. See?

But doing crazy timelines, going forward and back, without reason, is like having an affair with your spouse’s exact doppelganger! Why? What’s the point? Why not just do a wardrobe, location, or position change? Why do a whole-other-person-exactly-like-your-spouse change? It doesn’t make sense.

Of course, like in real life, the affair in the movie ends, and we are left with the aftermath, trying to find perspective as to what led us down this shadowy primrose path (and to whom was the writer typing out the words, “This is a diary of hate.” To the wife? The husband? Himself? God? It’s always uncomfortable mixing god and sex, right? Or is that just me?).

For my husband and I, what led us here was an app. The aftermath left us reeling over why the film was so dreadfully, painfully long, only to realize it was 102 minutes!

My review of The End of the Affair is this… don’t, just don’t.

Instead, try talking with your loved one. What do you each want to watch? Something new (or new to you)? Something strange—something that would leave Christopher Nolan scratching his head? What?

Ask each other, what are we trying to get out of a movie? And can we be happily entertained with another Nancy Meyers or Nora Ephron—you know, easy, hit-it-and-quit-it type films? For my husband and I, I believe the answer is yes, yes, we can.

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