- Diane Lane as Connie Sumner
- Richard Gere as Edward Sumner
- Olivier Martinez as Paul Martel
Executed with style and erotic frisson from director Adrian Lyne, Unfaithful examines the price of a chance encounter between two people and the subsequently dangerous affair that begins.
Connie Sumner appears to have it all: a beautiful house in a New York suburb, Edward, her loving husband and her excitable young son Charlie. While her marriage seems to be stable and all she could ask for, you can’t help but get the feeling that something is missing from it. One day Connie is picking up supplies for her son’s birthday party in downtown SoHo, when a fierce wind blows in. She is literally thrust into the arms of Paul Martel, a handsome, French book seller. He offers to help her clean up her grazed knee and begins to flirt with her. She initially dismisses this and returns home. Yet somehow this chance meeting with a dashing stranger has deeply left a mark upon her. Although she knows what she is about to do is wrong, Connie throws caution to the wind and returns to see Paul, culminating in a passionate love affair. As the relationship grows bolder and Connie becomes consumed by her obsessive desire for the virile Paul, Edward begins to suspect something is wrong. He hires a private detective to watch his wife’s actions to see if she is playing away. Let’s just say that events become complicated and tragic when passion, jealousy and rage meet head-on.
Director Adrian Lyne is the perfect choice to direct Unfaithful as he has dissected adultery and infidelity in many of his films. He gives Unfaithful a stormy and moody visual style as well as a burning amount of animal passion. The camerawork is marvellous in conveying a sense of foreboding such as the sensual windstorm that sweeps Connie into the path of Paul. One can read it as a precursor to the heat that will inevitably drive their affair, but also as a warning for the damage it will cause in the process. And speaking of intense passion, the many love scenes between Connie and Paul are provocative and supremely sexy. With genuine chemistry, sizzling direction and palpable connection, you can practically feel the heat between the characters locked in this love affair. Unfaithful may be billed as an erotic thriller and certain parts of it conform to the genre, but it fares better as a drama about the price of betrayal and obsessive desire. And while some scenes linger on for longer than needed, one can’t deny the steamy and dramatic pulse of the piece. A slow-burning score of clashing passion and serious indecision gives another layer to Unfaithful.
Diane Lane delivers a standout performance in the central role of Connie. We see that Connie is conflicted and passionate at the idea of an affair, but can’t resist the temptation. Rather than make Connie very unsympathetic as a character, Diane Lane brings something else to the part. Coming across as luminous and natural, we may not agree with what Connie is doing but rather we see her wrestle with the scale of what this affair could bring. The crowning moment of this complex performance is Connie on her journey back from sleeping with Paul. A whole collection of emotions flicker across her face: she’s excited, sad, doubtful and slightly elated by the whole thing and Lane makes her feelings so believable and palpable. It truly is a wonderful performance from Diane Lane that gives Unfaithful a whole lot of impact. Richard Gere turns in a quiet performance as Edward, Connie’s husband suspicious of her whereabouts. He is just a mild-mannered man who wants answers and that’s what makes Connie’s betrayal all the more devastating. There is also a rage to Gere’s performance as he begins to feel the betrayal of the women close to him. Olivier Martinez is mainly required to be virile, charming and seductive and he does this with aplomb as he captures Connie’s attention and won’t let go. While the role isn’t much of a stretch in terms of astonishing acting ability, it fits the part well enough.
Sensual and steamy while also being dramatic, Unfaithful is an erotic drama with stylish direction and excellent work from the cast, especially Diane Lane.