Reviewed by: Carole McDonnell
Diane Lane … Connie Sumner
Erik Per Sullivan … Charlie Sumner
Richard Gere … Ed Sumner
Olivier Martinez … Paul Martel
Myra Lucretia Taylor … Gloria
Michelle Monaghan … Lindsay
Chad Lowe … Bill Stone
Joseph Badalucco Jr. … Train conductor
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Fox 2000 Pictures
Epsilon Motion Pictures
Unfaithful Filmproduktion GmbH & Co. KG
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|Distributor||Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation|
“If you had the opportunity, would you?”
“Unfaithful” tells the story about a happily-married upper-middle class woman with a meaningful life who has a passionate/kinky affair with a shallow French cad with a good body and a hedonistic “live for today” philosophy. Ah the stuff that readers of romance novels dream of! But this is an Adrian Lyne film. Remember him? He of the “Fatal Attraction” film and catch-word. You know this affair won’t end right, especially since one character tells us that these things never end well.
Of course, we know that such advice always goes in one ear and comes out the other. And we know Constance—ah what a name!—as her lover (Paul Martel) calls her or “Con” as her husband Ed (Richard Gere) calls her will not be tossing away those passionate afternoons anytime soon. This is the stuff of puritanical tragedy. And somebody’s gonna be reaping what someone else sows. The question, of course, is who?
We know we’re in for trouble when the lovers meet. A great wind—none of which I’ve ever seen in my days as a New Yorker—whips through the narrow streets of New York and into the narrow straight-laced life of “Con” Sumner. The wind has all the power behind it that the Prince of the Power of the Air can muster. You know there’s trouble in this wind. (I wish Adrian Lyne were spiritual enough to take the metaphor and really fly with it. Instead, he takes all the bluster out of it.) The wind blows the protagonists together. And soon, Connie doesn’t need the wind at all. Sure events and coincidences conspire to give her a little hint. But before you know it, she is with Paul quite frequently and is performing a great adulterous con on her doting faithful husband.
I must say that while Paul Martel is cute and handsome and appealing, and all that an American housewife might want, I honestly couldn’t understand what a good housewife could see in a cad like that. The guy doesn’t even flinch when he hears her call her son, or when he sees her wedding ring. Quite the opposite, he seems to want her more. How can any woman in her right mind be even vaguely tempted by a guy who hasn’t got enough morality to feel even vaguely guilty? Well, maybe it’s a French thing. But I doubt it.
The only time I actually felt caught up in the inner workings of this character was when he met Ed, the husband of his mistress. Paul’s reaction—the guilty acknowledgment that there is someone on the other side of this sin, who is in pain because of the situation—shows so much about the character. He can play around with women. But a man’s pain really upsets him!
“Unfaithful” is a study in morality and regret. The sex scenes are a bit much. After all, we know that this is all these two have in common. But must we see this over and over again? After the fifth passion-filled scene, we kinda got the point. Obviously, this film is not for most and is not recommended to most, especially those whose weakness is sexual purity, lust, etc. Yet, at least, “Unfaithful” doesn’t show a passionate extramarital affair where no one gets hurt and everything is fine. Someone always gets hurt in such situations, which is one reason why the God who created us tells us not to partake in sexual immorality.
As we see Connie being blown about by the power of the air, we know that she will be thrown into the torrent of Temptation. This, of course, is not such a bad thing. In the Bible, James tells us that we should count it all joy when we are tempted. And Peter tells us that it’s through temptation that we conquer. We are, also, told that God prepares a way to save us out of our temptations. So, the thing about temptation is to not succumb to it, not to be carried away by our own lusts.
Connie does an effective job of avoiding every “out” that coincidence and conscience might give her. She fails this particular temptation miserably. A great Philippine bishop once said, “Fools learn by experience; wise men learn by authority.” The Biblical book of Proverbs is even more informative about foolish behavior that comes from doing what comes naturally. There are warnings for the would-be adulterer and cuckold at every turn. One warning even goes so far as to imply that jealous husbands can be murderers, if pushed far enough.
While Connie is shown as a good woman, with a good meaningful life, she is not shown as a woman who actually reads the Good Book. She knows she must be moral, for instance. Just as most people know they must be moral, by living in Christendom. Perhaps she even goes to church. But her spiritual muscles are weak in a time of test. And when an older woman warns her about the dangers of unfaithfulness, she becomes a fool by learning by experience. Of course, experience hurts. And, in this case, causes destruction and a fearful waiting for justice to descend.
God’s standard is often much different then man’s. The Bible teaches that sex is for married partners, and only for married partners. God created it to be enjoyed (not to mention the procreation part). (Learn more about Godly sexuality at our “Sex, Love and Relationships” answer index).
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.