Based on Calude Chabrol's splendid La Femme Infidele, which itself was a re-telling of Madame Bovary, Unfaithful is not the first film to deal with marital infidelity and it certainly won't be the last. Considering the director of Unfaithful is Adrian Lyne, maestro of the psycho-stalker horror Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal and the man responsible for a modern remake of Lolita, it's no surprise that Lyne has stuck to the type of subject matter that he is most comfortable with.
What's so surprising about Unfaithful is that it actually makes the marital-infidelity genre refreshing without throwing in any new plot elements. Diane Lane plays Connie Sumner, a blissfully happy woman who has a treasured marriage to husband Edward (Richard Gere). Edward and Connie share a nine-year-old son named Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan) and are materialistically well off; their needs are comfortably met and they have no reason to be unhappy. However, one windy Manhattan day, Connie is literally blown over, and falls into the arms of a seductive stranger Paul Martel (Olivier Martinez). Connie instantly finds Paul's genuine seductiveness intriguing, but it isn't long before she is making excuses in order to see him again, which in turn leads to a full-on sexual affair. Edward soon detects a change of mood in Connie, and hires a private investigator to see what's going on. This marks the beginning of a problem-infested spell of events.
It's courageous for Unfaithful to depict a marriage torn by infidelity when the marriage was seemingly perfect to start with. Connie is represented as a wife who is clearly in love with her husband and a mother who cares deeply about a child, and yet she is also depicted as a women who has a craving to break out of the secure mould her life has been placed in. It's as if the film is suggesting that a marriage doesn't necessarily have to be wrong in order for one of the parties to seek comfort elsewhere. Whether this is a correct notion or not, at least Unfaithful is not tired in its approach.
Considering his sex-symbol status, it's also commendable that the film chooses not to cast Richard Gere as Paul the 'other man' but rather Edward the husband. In a way, this helps corroborate the concept of Edward and Connie living in a happy marriage, as many women will find it hard to sympathise with a woman choosing to cheat on her husband if it's Richard Gere! Diane Lane performs admirably as Connie, and she is asked to do a lot for the film by Adrian Lyne, including frequent nudity, and yet the audience never hates her despite her cheating ways. Olivier Martinez is slightly annoying as Paul, but he still presents a convincing reason as to why Connie would want to cheat in the first place. Gere is good as always, and has proved alongside The Mothman Prophecies that his career is back on the up.
The film falls slightly flat by the time of the third act, and its preoccupation with melodrama clouds matters, but Lyne for the most part handles the film assuredly and with confidence on the subject matter. Any film dealing with such traumatic incidents as marital infidelity or break-up requires a director with balls to ensure that the film pushes the targets it aims for. Fortunately, Adrian Lyne is perfect suited to Unfaithful, even if he panders to a few too many sequences of sexual acrobatics that have gained him controversy in the past.
Unfaithful is decent, if not perfect adult entertainment. It will provide a strong amount of food for thought even if it hardly supplies the answers to the questions it poses, other than the obvious conclusion that infidelity is messy and always ends unhappily. The film is clearly released as a ploy to harness the audience of moviegoers who aren't interested in Spider-Man or Attack Of The Clones, so if this applies to you Unfaithful might be the film to see on a Friday night.