Summary: Anyone who builds a relationship on anything less than openness and honesty is building on shifting sand. There are moments in our lives that change everything.
2002, 20th Century Fox
Director: Adrian Lyne
Starring: Diane Lane, Richard Gere, Olivier Martinez
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Unfaithful is directed by Adrian Lyne, and set in the suburbs of New York City. That’s where Edward and Connie Sumner (played by Richard Gere and Diane Lane) live with their 9-year-old son, Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan).
Edward and Connie have been happily married for 11 years; they clearly love one another. Edward’s career may be demanding, but it has provided a beautiful home and an affluent life for them, without losing the affection of his wife who, he believes, is the most wonderful part of every day. They both adore their son, Charlie.
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One very windy day, however, while Connie is out in the city, she struggles to keep her footing, and is blown straight into a dashing French man who’s carrying a pile of books. They land together in a heap on the floor.
This is Paul Martel (Olivier Martinez), a sickeningly good-looking 28-year-old who deals in rare books. After picking themselves up, and chasing around for his books and her shopping, Connie asks him to hail her a cab, which he tries - and fails - to do. She has badly grazed her knee in the fall, so he invites her up to his apartment to clean up the cut.
First she says no; but then, hesitating, and just as an empty cab passes, she accepts his invitation...
Paul asks Connie to accept a gift, and directs her specifically along an aisle to the last book at the end of the second shelf from the top. He tells her which page to turn to, and then joins her in reciting the words: ‘Be happy for this moment, for this moment is your life.’ Has Paul planted this book for just such a moment as this? Feeling awkward and sensing trouble, Connie beats a hasty retreat home.
The next day, however, she decides to return to Paul’s apartment, and phones him from a payphone at the train station. She wants to see him again - and, even though she is painfully aware of how she could hurt her husband and son, she chooses to be unfaithful.
The phrase in the book – ‘be happy for this moment, for this moment is your life’ - really sets the tone for the rest of the film. Connie has chosen to live for the moment, yet her choice, whether she likes it or not, will define the rest of her life.
After her first adulterous encounter, she feels conflicting emotions of pleasure and regret. On the train home she seems tormented, but at the same time, she revels in what she’s just experienced. Connie struggles with the choice that she made, yet decides that passion - and the fulfilment of desire – are worth the risk, even though she already has a happy relationship with her husband.
As soon as she decides to sleep with Paul, however, the lies begin, and Connie starts to lead a double-life. Adultery isn’t just about who you lie with; it’s also about who you lie to. Anyone who builds a relationship on anything less than openness and honesty is building on shifting sand. There are moments in our lives that change everything.
This film shows powerfully how adultery can be irrational, and can cause irretrievable damage to those involved. It explores the hurt and devastation that everyone goes through. Connie is not in love with Paul - she knows nothing about him, in fact, and their relationship is based simply on lust. Paul is naïve, too, because he believes there’ll be no price to pay if his actions are discovered.
Connie’s passion, once unbridled, becomes almost like an obsession; it’s a compulsive urge which begins to consume her. Her desire overrides the guilt she initially feels. The passion is like a drug and her highs come from pushing the affair to the very point of discovery.
Unfaithful is about one decision which affects the rest of Connie’s life, and the people connected to her. Take her son, for example: in one instance, Connie fails to pick him up from school on time; in another, he gets out of bed to find her crying and is left confused as to why this is. Gradually, he becomes aware of the growing separation between his parents. His anxiety is revealed through small, poignant details, like wetting the bed.
Edward senses that he’s losing his wife’s affections, and when he discovers that Connie is not at the hair appointment she’s meant to have arranged, he smells a rat. As if her lies and deception weren’t enough, he, too, quickly falls into a downward spiral of suspicion and secrecy. He hires a private investigator who discovers the truth about Connie’s affair. In the end, Edward confronts his wife’s lover, and in a momentary fit of despair, accidentally kills him. Desperately, he tries to cover up his actions.