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The End of the Affair is based on a Graham Greene novel. The film is very tastefully written and directed by Neil Jordan, and elegantly photographed by Roger Pratt. It story takes place during the days and months following World War 2, when most English people slowly awake to a new life, trying to resume normal activities. It follows Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes), a cynical young novelist who can’t quite escape the drama of his own imagination even when confronted by a more fantastic reality. We meet the not-so-happily-married couple of Henry (Stephen Rea) and Sarah (Julianne Moore) Miles. She is a beautiful woman who is repressed. During the summer of 1939, Maurice and Sarah started a torrid love affair. They profess undying love for one another and, while Henry works the long hours on the war effort, spend much time in Maurice’s apartment. One a hot summer night, when Maurice is seriously wounded in a German air raid, the relationship abruptly ends.
Several years after the end of the affair, Maurice has a chance meeting with Henry, who confesses to his old friend that he believed Sarah was unfaithful. The ugly side of jealousy rears its head. Henry cannot bear the thought of Sarah being with someone else, even though he hasn’t seen her in years. The film is more satisfying on an intellectual level than it is on an emotional one. The issues posed by the film are intriguing. In addition to probing into the depth of the spiritual and physical components of love, Jordan explores the ways in which the vagaries of fate and/or the “Hand of God” shape people’s destinies. How many coincidences must occur before a devout atheist is forced to admit that some unseen power is guiding his life? Jordan allows certain key scenes to be repeated twice, with both Sarah’s and Maurice’s points of view.
Certain elements of The End of the Affair remind of The English Patient. However, while the two movies explore similar themes and use a few of the same techniques, Ralph Fiennes is falling into a rut by portraying the handsome male lead in tales of tragic love. It’s a role he plays well, but he it is hoped that he can stretch his range again in the future. The chemistry between Fiennes and Julianne Moore is pitched at about the perfect level. There is a lot of desperation, bitterness and longing in their perfunctory exchanges. Moore’s performance is excellent. Not only is the accent and body language attuned, but also her flirtatious charm complements the spirit of wartime. She has shown us the courage in her, plus exposing the vulnerability of hopeless love. Stephen Rea also does a fine job as the cuckold husband. This film possesses power to involve the viewer in a simple tale that is likely to invoke his or her own feelings about love, fate and God.