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  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jan
from Film Forum, 05/16/02

Director Adrian Lyne has made a career of directing films about lust. Unfaithful follows in kind, echoing 9½ Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal, and Lolita in its portrayal of sexual intimacy and the consequences of illicit affairs. And, true to form, Lyne includes his usual soft-porn sex scenes, portraying in romanticized light the behavior that the story itself seems to condemn. This leaves some critics—both religious and mainstream—unsure whether the audience is supposed to be warned by the painful consequences, seduced by the glamorized fornication, or merely confused and poorer by another eight bucks.

Some religious press critics recommend the film for its strengths. At Dick Staub's Culture Watch, a reviewer raves, "The power of this film is in the clear portrayal of the irrationality of the unfaithful act and its irretrievable damage to all parties involved. This haunting movie gets at the emotional dynamics of unfaithfulness, and, if properly absorbed, could be a warning against the momentary pleasures of sin." And David Bruce (Hollywood Jesus) says, "We have all been there. We have all made choices that are wrong. And we have all experienced pain in broken relationships our choices bring. This film hits at the heart of the vulnerabilities in all of us. The movie has a sobering feel to it and leaves us facing the human condition in all of its reality."

"This story deals with both sides of the affair," says Holly McClure (Crosswalk), "and [it] shows the hurt and devastation everyone goes through as a result of adultery. Since it has sexual situations and shocking violence, this one is for mature adults only who can handle the controversial material."

Others argue that Unfaithful is irresponsible. A critic for the USCCB also praises Lane's "nuanced performance," but expresses reservations about the film's portrayal of marriage. "Unfaithful leaves the viewer with a sad feeling about marriage and true commitment. Even after the affair is over, [Connie and Edward] seem to be clinging to a past notion of happiness, unsure of how—or why—to move forward." Phil Boatwright (The Movie Reporte) says, "I expect the main reason for attending would be to see a great deal of steamy sexual activity. But before you run off to the nearest cineplex, you should ask yourself if that reason is edifying. Is watching other people simulate sex going to help your marriage or strengthen your spiritual walk?" Paul Bicking (Preview) says, "Obscenities and strong profanity are used a number of times and, combined with graphic sexual content and nudity, renders Unfaithful unwatchable."

And then there are those who seem conflicted by the mix of pros and cons. Marie Asner (Phantom Tollbooth) calls the first half "virtually a soft-porn film," but then she argues that "minimal dialogue," Peter Biziou's camerawork, and an effective soundtrack "save Unfaithful." Jan Stallones (Movieguide) agrees that the sex scenes give the film a "seedy peep-show quality." And yet she says the film "is artistically very good. The characters are complex and terrifically performed."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says the film itself portrays a double-mindedness. "Diane Lane's riveting turn as an unfaithful wife … carries this picture much further than it would have otherwise traveled. Her performance deserves to be seen. I'm only sorry that I can't say the same about the film itself. The truth that 'a double-minded man (or woman) is unstable in all his ways,' which we can find stated in James 1:8, is vividly portrayed here."