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The whole concept of a married couple being blown apart by infidelity isn’t exactly new, nor does it welcome a serious attempt at bringing something different to the sub-genre. But Unfaithful, directed by erotic drama veteran Adrian Lyne (9 ½ Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Lolita), is a brooding, simmering tale of a couple’s problems once one of them decides to cheat on the other.

In this case it’s Connie Sumner, a well-heeled, established wife and middle-class mother living comfortably in New York City. She and her husband Edward aren’t without love for each other, in fact they’re very much suited to each other and seem to be enjoying their lot in life. But a chance storm, a grazed knee and a mysterious book seller turn that whole comfortable life upside down for both Connie and Edward.

The menu

The film is basically split into two halves. The first establishes the relationship between Connie and Edward, highlighting how stable their situation seems to be. This is followed by Connie’s discovery of the mysterious book dealer and her subsequent descent into infidelity, more than once one might add. The second half of the film deals with Edward and Connie’s struggles with themselves and each other when all the details have been revealed. And that’s exactly where things become interesting. Lyne has a deft touch with both the camera and the drama, heaping long silences on the audience to create the necessary tension and have us guessing where things are about to go next.

By now you will have heard of Diane Lane’s performance as Connie, one that isn’t just dramatic because she cries a lot (can anyone say Halle Berry?). Lane brings a very complex character into the film and handles it with aplomb; we understand her situation but don’t necessarily sympathise. Her interaction with the two male leads is perfect, contrasted well between the two as she leads her double life for a while. Gere is a great choice as Edward and is still underrated by many but his thoughtful, restrained style is perfectly suited to those lengthy pauses and acute facial expressions. Can’t say much about the child, though, played by Malcolm In The Middle’s Erik Per Sullivan. Why they decided to put a kid who looks like an alien into a middle-class family and give him stupid, quirky traits to pump up the humour a little is beyond me. A normal looking, straight acting child would’ve kept the focus squarely on the parents instead of creating a sideshow for a few minutes here and there.

On the whole, however, the film is absolutely outstanding. For an erotic drama genre that has been destroyed by B-grade soft porn titles over the years it was a surprise to find a film of this quality shoot straight to the top. But thankfully it does on the back of some crafty direction and brilliant performances from Lane, Gere and the ‘other man’, played by Oliver Martinez. As a date movie this will get you a little hot under the collar early but have you watching with intrigue at how the characters deal with their respective situations. Go into it expecting to think a little but be basically a spectator in this well-crafted character study. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

The 'other man'

The cinematography for this film was carefully planned and it shows. Luckily the transfer does the visual presentation justice, with the 1.85:1 transfer coming up a treat just like the rental version of six months ago.

The colour palette is noticeably subdued, which was an obvious choice on behalf of the director, but this doesn’t detract from the vibrancy of the visuals. There’s an incredible sharpness to the transfer but it still manages to portray the softness in various scenes as intended, something which is still quite rare in even the best DVD presentations. There are no signs of aliasing and the print is quite clean, making this a great looking transfer that will have you glued to the action and not distracted by any visual nasties popping up on the screen.

Included on this disc is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack which is the perfect example of getting the most out of a predominantly dialogue-driven film. The words are clear throughout and sit firmly in the front speakers, occasionally shifting around for added spatial effect. The rears are used sparingly but nip into action for the odd ambient sound or effect.

The musical score by Jan Kazmarek (Lost Souls) sounds brilliant on this disc, with every note from the fleeting piano tracks jumping out of the speakers, both rear and front. Like the movie itself it’s an incredibly understated score but works a treat to build the suspense and tension. In all this is a solid mix for a pretty limited film when it comes to audio effects.

After the practically bare-bones rental release we now have a large selection of extras to sit through, all of which have merit.

First up is the commentary from director Adrian Lyne. Lyne is more of an old film school guy so he looks at the themes and perceptions in the film rather than giving us any detailed anecdotes about the making of the film. He highlights the audience’s initial thoughts on the motivations of Connie, the metaphors and symbolism dotted along the way and his decisions in regards to direction. Lyne is very easy to listen to and, although there are a few silences here and there, he imparts some decent information about the film as a whole.

There is also a cast commentary, which is specifically Diane Lane and Oliver Martinez talking separately about certain parts of the film. The whole movie isn’t covered but there’s over an hour’s worth of footage and commentary from the two combined. Lane initially talks about her attraction to the role of Connie and moves on from there with various interesting pieces of information, while Martinez starts off with his take on the motivations of his character. Again, there’s some great stuff in here for fans of the film.

Some guys have all the luck

Next up is an alternate ending which takes things a little further than the final cut and spells out the future for the two main characters. It’s good to see the other option that was planned for the film and be able to draw your own conclusions as to which is the better finale. There are also ten deleted scenes, with the highlights being an eventful trip to the cinema for Connie and some more interaction between Connie and Ed over the dinner table.

The next feature on the disc is a behind the scenes featurette entitled An Affair To Remember, which begins with Lyne telling us about the French film his story was inspired by and some of his other inspirations. We also talk to the major cast members and get to see clips from the film. This is relatively interesting, neither a fluffy promotional piece nor a truly deep documentary.

There is also a piece called Anne Coates on Directing, which is, obviously, Anne Coates talking about the editing of the film and some of her early cuts. She’s an interesting person and really knows her stuff so this piece becomes much more valuable than people might think.

The interviews section contains, firstly, Gere, Lane and Lyne talking to Charlie Rose on his television show. Charlie Rose is a strange character and the interview follows a rather peculiar path but there’s still some interesting information in here for fans of the film. And the way Rose answers a question from Lyne as to whether he’s seen A Walk On The Moon says to me that he was either lying or was very eager to get into the clips from the film (which is the useless part of the interview because we’ve already seen them of course).

The other interviews fall under the banner of A Conversation With.... Gere, Lane and Lyne talk even further about their characters, the plot and the film, which basically fills in any holes there might have been after the rest of the interviews, commentaries and featurettes.

A rather interesting piece is the Director’s script notes, which is an image bases feature containing Lyne’s notes on various scenes and shots. This is great stuff as we get to see how he thinks, plans and operates when it comes to transferring the script into a motion picture. Film geeks like me will love it, while others might get a little bored with all the reading and technical jargon.

Rounding out the disc is the theatrical trailer, a rather brooding, mysterious piece that succeeds in drawing you into the story. This rounds out an impressive, if ‘talky’, extras section that gives us a lot more detail about the film and the characters. Note that there are also three trailers for Fox titles before the main menu loads, which doesn’t bode well for the future if you’re not a fan of advertising before the feature.

Room for two?

Adrian Lyne has concocted a brilliant character drama that builds the tension and suspense without going over the top. Lane fully deserves her Oscar nomination even though she’ll be hampered by the film’s early release come the big night, while Gere is perfectly suited to the role of the intelligent but misled husband. The technical aspects of the disc are spot on, while the extras section contains a wealth of information. This is definitely a special edition to keep among the best of them.