Jean, a housewife who lives an impossibly clean, modern, architecturally stunning house outside of Los Angeles finds herself caught in a love triangle when she embarks upon an affair with a laid-back present-day hippie, Viggo. In contrast to Jean's uptight, controlling, emotionally unavailable husband, Paul, Viggo is the complete opposite, and this holds great appeal for Jean. She falls quite easily into the affair, yet she finds herself inexplicably drawn back to Paul time and time again. As for Viggo, his own lifestyle, which borders on the seamy, creates problems for clean-cut Jean as well. When an unexpected development occurs, it brings Jean to a crossroads where she must either choose between the two men in her life or, for once, forge her own identity outside of a relationship.
The cinematography in The Affair is visually stunning. The shadows and unique, natural lighting, as well as the interior of Paul and Jean's house, is absolutely gorgeous. Kelsey Oldershaw is perfectly cast as Jean, and her soft facial expressions are very effective at portraying Jean's inner torment in the face of her elation at finding an exciting new man in her life. Her spoken lines, like that of many of the other actors in the film, come across as wooden at times. One of the very best scenes occurs when she and Viggo's mother, Charlene (Maree Cheatham, the only actor in the film who comes across as seasoned and genuine), sit and talk in Charlene's living room. It would have been great to change the film's perspective to the friendship between these two women, because Oldershaw and Cheatham have real chemistry.
Overall character development, however is another story. A real problem is the character of Paul; he is written so one-dimensionally that he comes across as boorish and unsympathetic. It would have been far more interesting to see the other sides to this character, to discover why he is so remote from Kelsey, why his personality is so rigid and unforgiving, but the film provides few, if any, answers. Also, because the affair starts so suddenly, the audience is not given enough of a reason to understand why Kelsey falls so easily into it. It doesn't appear that she puts any thought into it at all; one minute she is a dutiful housewife, and the next, she's naked in Viggo's trailer. It would have been far more effective to create more of a build-up to the affair. There are several other characters, such as Jean's grandmother and a chanting female artist, who are completely irrelevant to the rest of the story.
The storyline itself is engrossing, and viewers will find themselves wondering what happens next. The way it resolves itself, however, is ultimately uneven. A convenient plot twist occurs to wrap up Viggo's storyline, and viewers may find themselves disappointed, because the development is highly unoriginal and just appears to be too pat, too manufactured. The final scene, however, makes up for this, because The Affair is really about Kelsey, and although viewers are left to make up their minds about what happens next, it is satisfying.
Presented in a widescreen letterbox format, the picture is very good, if at times slightly grainy, but that could be due to the many different lighting techniques that are used to create a sense of mood, time, and space. Visually, the picture is truly beautiful, especially the sunlit scenes that occur around Viggo's trailer.
While the Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround sound quality on the picture itself is just fine, the audio commentary has a high-pitched whine in the background that is completely unforgivable. It is incredibly distracting, and I had to pause several times to ensure the whining sound was coming from the disc itself and not from somewhere in my house. This can't be something that would have been missed by the producers, so the fact that it was not rectified is truly mystifying.
As mentioned before, an audio commentary, which can be accessed through the Languages section of the Main Menu, is included, and it features director Carl Colpaert, producer Edward Oleschak, and cinematographer Frederic Goodich. Apart from the terrible whine that is heard in the background throughout, the information imparted is quite uninteresting. Just lots of talk about lighting the scenes, shooting the scenes, and few of the fun, juicy tidbits and trivia that usually accompany commentaries.
The behind-the-scenes footage is completely skippable and is some of the worst I have ever seen. A featurette of this nature implies that there will be brief interviews with the actors, director, and producers. The footage included here is merely 5 minutes of the actors standing or sitting around, costume fittings, and the crew setting up. To prove how truly bad it is, there is an excruciatingly long period of time that features actor Andy Mackenzie (Viggo) drinking water from a bottle while Oldershaw talks on a telephone in the background. It can't get much more boring than that. The two deleted scenes are just as bad; they offer nothing of interest to the viewer.
The Affair is worth a rental, and while it may appeal to women more so than men, it is not a chick flick that would make men squirm uncomfortably throughout it. The story is engrossing, even if the resolution of it is imperfect. This is not the kind of film that stays with a viewer for days afterward, but it suffices as a diverting 99 minutes.