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Paul Schrader's Affliction, adapted from the novel by Russell Banks (The Sweet Hereafter), charts the slow descent of small-town sheriff Wade Whitehouse (a raspy, gruffly restrained Nick Nolte) into violence, the legacy of the corrupt love of an abusive, alcoholic father. The story ostensibly centers on a hunting death on the outskirts of town, but as Wade digs into what may or not be a conspiracy, his personal life spirals out of control. James Coburn, who deservedly won an Oscar for his mocking, sneering performance, is Wade's father, who jumps back into the cycle of abuse when Wade moves in to care for the aging man. Chronicling the story in distant, dispassionate tones is Willem Dafoe as Wade's younger brother Rolfe, who "escaped" his father's legacy in a world of books. Schrader has made his reputation revealing the scarred psyches of American men trying to reconcile the contradictions of masculine fantasy and social reality, as in his screenplays for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, and in Affliction he creates his most poignant and powerful work. The quiet beauty of the snow-blanketed New Hampshire setting (using Canadian locations) and Schrader's restrained yet intimate cinematic style builds the underlying emotional tensions until they explode in startling close-ups, revealing the repressed fear, rage, and helplessness cracking through Wade's carefully maintained fa?ade. As Rolfe's narration coolly analyzes his brother's affliction, he reveals his own: an emotional remove so complete that he's edited himself out of his family history. The legacy of abuse leaves no one untouched. --Sean Axmaker

Customer Reviews:

  • A noir with a touch of Bergman!
    Paul Shrader is one the few filmmakers who never has bent his convictions about propelling his independent entries, permeated of dark and bleak memories. Like Fassbinder for instance, he is well aware his role in the cinema , what is to become a sleepless lighthouse around our ethical consciousness.

    Small constable investigates a supposed shooting, but he is firmly convinced it was a premeditate murder. Meanwhile he is haunted by his childhood because his drunken and abusive father.

    This was for Coburn the great acting of his lifetime and that's why he won a more than deserved Academy Award.
    ...more info
  • One of the best movie's you'll see
    I have no idea why there are negative reviews of this movie here. Maybe some people can't handle the dark nature of the movie. This is a piece of art that is fully realized and very powerful. There's not a wasted moment on the screen. Nolte and Coburn are tremendous. A detailed story rich in small symbols, worthy of more than one viewing. ...more info
  • Nolte and Coburn ignite this fine film.................
    In Affliction, we see the dark side of a typical American family and what can go wrong when we let our suspicions get the best of us. I liken this storyline to that of Ethan Frome. It's dark and has hardly any light shining through it. It is and honest and real portrayal of what men are capable of doing.

    I believe Coburn won an Oscar for this one and when you watch this film, you'll see why....more info

  • good acting
    i didnt like this film....maybe because it came too close to home and the relationship with my own father. but the acting was very good....more info
  • With a little more silence this movie would have been perfect...
    I want to start by saying that on paper, `Affliction' is one of the most impressive character studies I've ever had the privilege of reading. The novel, written by Russell Banks (that author I keep touting as the greatest American writer of all time), is an outstanding piece of literature; a marvelous study of the slow progression of anger, pain, misery and ultimate insanity. On paper, `Affliction' is a masterpiece; on the screen, `Affliction' is merely a good movie.

    It is a good movie, don't get me wrong, but this is not a great movie.

    The problem lies in the pacing, so honestly I guess I can heap all the blame on director Paul Schrader. The thing about the novel is that Banks has this beautiful way of allowing his characters to stew in their own predicaments. There are long passages that seem to just build more tension and cast more darkness over the story and the characters within it. I think back to what Atom Egoyan did with `The Sweet Hereafter', allowing the sweeping views of the snow covered town to bring to life the `stillness' of Banks novel. He complemented the script with his expert direction. `Affliction' seems a little too rushed. The script is impeccable, much like `The Sweet Hereafter', changing very little in adaptation and staying very true to what Banks originally penned.

    I can't help but think that this film would have been perfect had it added about thirty minutes of silence; interjecting random scenes of serene camera movement throughout the bustle of the story to establish the mood needed to elevate this film and bring it to the novel's level.

    The film tells the story of Wade Whitehouse, a man pushed to the edge of his very sanity thanks to the people all around him. He lives in the same small town in which he grew up. He works the same dead end thankless job he's worked almost all his life. He's tormented by memories of an abusive childhood and he's struggling to win the war against his ex-wife over the affections of their daughter Jill. A series of events (an accidental death of a well respected man and the death of Wade's mother) start a domino effect almost, causing Wade to drift rapidly into the depths of insanity.

    The film lacks the emotional impact the novel did, for the novel allowed us time to appreciate the mental deterioration overtaking Wade, and it gave us enough background in order to understand it. Here, his freefall seems almost too sudden at times.

    Performance wise though, this is a goldmine. I am not a fan of Nick Nolte. I find his breed of overacting to be a hindrance to the films he inhabits. In fact, aside from his rather surprisingly controlled performance in `Cape Fear' I have hated everything he's done. This though, is a masterclass. Honestly, the fact that this is Nolte floors me. He has such deep understanding of Wade's character (maybe even more so than Schrader) and he exhibits that knowledge in every movement he makes. He delivers such a grounded and emotionally rich performance here; I'm stunned. James Coburn won the Oscar for his sadistic portrayal of Wade's abusive father, and while I'm not sure I'd hand him the Oscar I do believe he is marvelous here. Sissy Spacek is not the face I pictured when reading the novel, and so casting her as Margie seemed a bit off, but she works wonders with the part. These performances feel so small yet hit you very hard. They work far better than the film itself.

    In the end I have to say that this is a very good movie, and if you have not read the novel you may even consider this a great movie. I was expecting a little more time invested in establishing the dark serenity that comes from reading Banks' work, so I was disappointed with Schrader direction.

    Still, the film is a solid B, but the novel is an A+....more info
  • A Haunting Film
    I saw this movie several years ago and it has stayed with me ever since. Whenever I think about the truly great films I've seen, and would like to see again, this one always makes the list as great, but I have avoided watching it again because, depending upon your childhood, it is extremely disturbing. Beware anyone who has experienced life with an abusive parent, you will see the fear and despair come to life before your eyes. James Coburn and Nick Nolte portray this type of hellish relationship with stunning realism. I have read reviews from those who, apparently, couldn't really believe that parents and children could have such a relationship. Not so, friends. This is a scathing, searing, film -- with no bullets or exploding cars. You have been warned....more info
  • Deeply Affected by the Deep "Affliction".....
    This review refers to the May 2003 release of Lion's Gate DVD edition of "Affliction".....

    1998 was a year when World War II films and English period pieces took center stage. But amidst those wonderful films,there was also "Affliction". An excellent film and brillant character study that may leave you thinking about it for days afterwards. A superb piece of filmamking. Artful direction and a beautiful screenplay by Paul Schrader(who also wrote the screenplays for "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull"), skillfully filmed by Paul Sarossy, and exquiste acting by a cast that includes, Nick Nolte, James Coburn, Sissy Spacek and Willem Dafoe make for one deep and moving drama.

    Dafoe captivatingly narrates this story of Wade Whitehouse(Nolte). A small town cop,whose past has a grip on him and won't let go. Wade who was raised by an alcoholic and abusive father(Coburn), now seems to be losing his own grip on reality as he tries to juggle his own dysfunctional life. He is in the midst of an investigation of an "accidental" hunting accident, he is trying (unsuccessfully) to mend his relationship with his young daughter, and trying to make some sort of life with his new girlfriend(Spacek). His past and his present come crashing down around him, as he examines his life and the bad memories are flooding back to him. Wade must try to break this cycle or live his life burdened with the chains of the past.

    Nolte turns in what may be the performance of his career and was honored by the Nat'l Society of Film Crtics, and The New York Film Critic's Circle Awards for Best Actor in his role. Coburn is also superb and recieved an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the abusive father. I highly recommend this film to anyone who appreciates fine filmaking and an excellent drama.

    This Lion's Gate DVD is an excellent transfer. The picture is sharp and clear and the colors vibrant. The sound is in Dolby Digital Stereo and is great for this film of almost all dialouge.
    There are no bonus features, but it has subtitles in both English and Spanish and if you click on to the Lion's Gate logo in the main menu you will find some trailers as well.

    A not to be missed film for lovers of great cinema. Thanks and enjoy...Laurie...more info

  • Not quite good
    There were some startling scenes in this movie. Keep an eye out for when Wade (Nolte) storms into Gordon's office and gets fired. Nolte's physical performance looks unscripted, as he assaults the other actors in an intense confrontation, and they react with shock and surprise. It's a testament to both Nolte and Holmes Osborne that they pull off the scene; the two younger actors look rattled.

    The same spontaneous violence happens in other places. Nolte pulls off the contradictions well; he's good-hearted but powerless, violent and contrite. "I'm like a kicked dog," he says, "and one day I'm gonna bite." And it's easy to believe.

    Unfortunately, his performance doesn't carry the film. Jim True, as Jack, is unconvincing. The grainy flashbacks, intended to be powerful, are cliched (though Coburn as the father in old age is mostly excellent). Spacek is underused. Dafoe's narration is grating and unnecessary.

    I really wanted to like the whole movie, but I wound up just being impressed by some of the acting and frustrated by the rest....more info

  • OK movie, just couldn't relate.
    Wade Whitehouse (Nick Nolte) is something of a 'do everything man' in a small town in New Hampshire (crossing guard, policeman, snow plower, etc.). The problem is that he has never been able to get out of the town. He has a daughter with a woman that lives elsewhere and is currently seeing Margie Fogg (Sissy Spacek). His brother, Rolfe Whitehouse (Willem Dafoe) is a history professor at Boston University and his father, Glen Whitehouse (James Coburn), is abusive. The movie focuses on a very short period in Wade's life when everything just kind of falls apart. He is trying to get his teenage daughter to spend time with him, but she doesn't want to and he can't really get visitation rights because he gave those away in the divorce hearing. His best friend, Jack Hewitt (Jim True), takes a man out hunting and the man accidentally shoots himself. Wade thinks that Jack did it. Wade also finds out that his boss, Gordon LaRiviere (Holmes Osborne) is in cahoots with another man and together they are buying up all of the town property to develop it. Then when his mother dies, perhaps due to neglect on the part of his father, and Wade moves in with his father, everything begins to collapse. He loses his job, loses Margie, then loses his daughter and his sanity. This is when Glen pushes him over the edge by hitting him over the head with a bottle of whiskey. Wade finally retaliates and, in doing so, kills his father. He then sets his father on fire and burns down the barn his dad in it. We find out later that Wade, still convinced that his best friend Jack killed the wealthy hunter, kills Jack and skips town.

    My Comments:
    The story is definitely very complicated, but not necessarily hard to follow. A lot of time is spent in vehicles, driving here and there as Wade tries to work out his life. In watching some of the special features on the DVD, it becomes apparent that this movie is all about what abusive parenting does to children (perhaps saying something about me that I needed the special features to really bring that out for me). I can't even imagine what it is like, though I'm sure this movie probably hits home for some people. I didn't grow up with an abusive father so the movie didn't resonate with me. I just kept thinking that the movie was about a bunch of messed up people, which, as it turns out, was the whole point of the movie.

    Overall, the acting is convincing. James Coburn and Nick Nolte in particular, are very good. The story usually keeps you interested, but not always. It almost seems like it is supposed to be a murder mystery and you would think that that plot line would drive the story, but it isn't about the murder in the end, it is about Wade dealing with the abuse, which is what is really driving the erratic story. The movie is worth seeing, but I don't know that I would highly recommend it. Well-done, but unless you can really relate, it is probably just a sad, hard-to-understand story....more info

  • Ready to Implode
    Nick Nolte is excellent as a man who is seriously about to implode. Watching him in this role is like waiting to hear thunder after the lightning strikes. He is constantly on the verge of losing it, while he is also constantly trying to smother his wrath. You get the feeling that there is going to be a four alarm fire erupting at any time and Nick Nolte is about to run out of the water that is dousing his flames inside.

    James Coburn plays his father. A nasty man, always drunk, always evil. We begin to see where Nick Nolte's character got his deep rooted angst. Being raised by such a man has left permanent scars inside of Nolte's character. Everyone that comes into contact with Coburn's character is left wounded.

    It's a story about a cop in a small town who is trying to connect with his daughter, fight his ex-wife for custody, begin a new life with a new woman, tend to his father who has just lost his wife, investigate a hunting accident involving his best friend and coming to grips with his past, his family and his future.

    This is no light hearted movie. There is depth and feeling. This movie might not make you feel happy, but it succeeds in reaching into your emotions and forcing you to feel what the main character is feeling. Not always pretty, but very effective.

    This is one of the better movies I have seen. The acting is superb, the story is meaningful, the scenery makes you feel cold. 5 stars for this film for having the ability to bring out emotions in the viewer. Not for kids, heartbreaking, sad and perfect for what it was trying to do....more info
  • Excellent Film
    Wow, most of the other people who reviewed this film obviously have some deep seated personal issues that keep them from accepting the movie as a whole. Take this as a sign of the power of this film. Now, I won't say it's perfect, but only because nothing is or can be, but it is a complete film and there's really no reason to single bits of it out for rejection. The beginning, middle and end are all fine. The story is fine, the characters and acting are all fine, better than you'll see in most films. Few movies are made like this, movies where characters don't have easily resolved issues and have a whole lifetime of troubles and issues and tendencies, stories that are unvarnished and don't come with audience pleasing hooks & gimmicks & such, films that don't compromise their soul or subject for useless satisfaction. Take my advice, grow up and watch this movie. As movies go, it's as real as it gets. Chances are you'll not see a film that deals with similar issues in a long, long time, which is a true shame as this causes whole areas of human behaviour and life to be left out, creating a biased, slanted, unrealistic, oversimplified view of life to be reflected. That said, I have to say that this is probably the best film Schrader has yet directed. It's so frustrating that this man, who is one of the all-time greatest screenwriters, can be such an uninspired and bland director. Chalk it up to his intellectual preoccupations and go rent/buy/see this film, if only as a balance to all the Hollywood garbage in your system....more info