The End of the Affair (Neil Jordan, 1999)
[originally posted 19Jan2001]
I don’t think there’s a single person on earth who hasn’t seen a Neil Jordan film by this time. The man’s popularity and influence are so far-reaching that it sometimes seems you could travel to the wilds of Timbuktu and hear people talking about the twist ending of The Crying Game. The man is a master, there’s no getting around it. So why is that you can hand him one of the finest novels to come out of England during the twentieth century and a cast with four of Britain’s heaviest hitters in its four lead roles and still come up with such a pointless, meandering film?
To be fair to Jordan (if that’s possible), The End of the Affair—first filmed in 1955 with Van Johnson and Peter Cushing in the roles played here by Ralph Fiennes and Stephen Rea, respectively—is an astonishingly difficult novel, and its somewhat unconventional structure (the climax comes just under halfway through) makes the transition to film a nightmare if the director focuses on the wrong parts. And for the first hour of this movie that’s exactly what Jordan does. While any excuse to show off Julianne Moore in as little clothing as possible is certainly worthwhile, there doesn’t seem to be any other reason for its existence. She has more onscreen charisma in a bulky trenchcoat for the ninety seconds she appears in Chicago Cab.
It’s at the novel’s climax where the Jordan magic falls into place. Starting at that point and travelling through the last hour of this film, it’s riveting. Everything comes together. (Julianne Moore keeps her clothes on. This may not be coincidence.) The chemistry that was nonexistent between Fiennes and Rea is suddenly there and powerful. Ian Hart, last seen as the long-suffering son in Longitude, starts making the audience realize what an incredible depth of talent he has. In other words, the last hour of this film is brilliant. Too bad most casual viewers won’t survive the first hour. **