Few directors have made a commercially successful career out of the erotic thriller. Fewer still have got critical raves for their work along the way. English director/screenwriter/producer Adrian Lyne is widely known and respected for films that deal with sexually charged characters and themes. His films are almost never strictly romantic; there is usually some sort of psychological or physical damage done to one of the main characters in each of his films.

Lyne is a man who has spent most of his career pushing boundaries and finding success in spite of it. In 1986, most critics were brutal toward 9 ½ Weeks, his tale of sexual obsession but the film went on to huge international success and became a video favorite. Lyne’s next project, 1987’s Fatal Attraction was both a commercial and critical success. The film grossed $320,145,693 worldwide and garnered six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Lyne followed that success with the mega-hit Indecent Proposal in 1993.

unfaithful9.jpg2002’s Unfaithful was directed by Lyne and and adapted by Alvin Sargent (Spiderman 3) and William Broyles Jr. (The Polar Express) from the French film The Unfaithful Wife (La Femme infidèle) by Claude Chabrol. Edward and Connie Sumner (Richard Gere and Diane Lane) are a suburban couple whose marriage is solid and loving but a little lacking in passion. They have an eight year old son (Erik Pre Sullivan) and a beautiful house outside New York City.

Shopping in Manhattan on what has to be one of the windiest ever committed to film, Connie literally runs into Paul (Oliver Martinez). In the collision, Connie scrapes her knees and Paul invites her up to her his loft for bandaging. “I am not an Axe murderer,” he says in his thick European accent. “I promise.”

Connie decides to go up to the loft, where she discovers Paul is a book dealer. Paul offers Constance some hot tea and a few lines of from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: “Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” Sensing a seduction, Connie hastily retreats back to her loving, if predictable husband.

Of course, Connie finds it impossible to get the dashing European out of her thoughts. Soon, she finds herself on the phone with an excuse to visit Paul’s loft again. There, he kisses her and they end up in bed. When Connie is momentarily stopped by feelings of guilt, Paul overcomes this by ordering her: Hit me! That opens the dam and soon the two are involved in a very passionate affair that involves steamy sex in Paul’s apartment, a public restroom and a movie theater.
In time Edward senses something is going on. There are some clues but mostly he senses it in her actions, feels it in her body. He decides to hire a private detective (Dominic Chianese) to follow her and quickly learns his worst fears are true.
Edward learns where Paul lives and visits there. For those of you who haven’t seen Unfaithful, I won’t reveal what happens there, except to say it’s not what you might expect. Therein lies the talent of Adrian Lyne; he continually makes these erotic thrillers but he doesn’t need to manufacture thrills. With Unfaithful, he showed how to reasonably sane adults can find themselves in a real, unimaginable dilemma.

While Unfaithful doesn’t quite rank up there with Fatal Attraction, on its own terms this is a solid film. Screenwriters Alvin Sargent and William Broyles Jr. have written a tight script with no pointless or unnecessary dialogue. Richard Gere and Oliver Martinez do a good job; albeit there’s nothing overly exciting about either performance.
The kudos here goes to Diane Lane, who manages to really get inside her character. Whether it’s the sadness and agony on her face as she rides the train home after her first tryst with Paul, to later scenes of utter sexual abandon, Lane seems to inhabit the role in a way that makes it easy for the audience to connect with Constance and her anguish. It’s no wonder Lane went on to win the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle awards and was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Unfaithful arrives on Blu-ray with a remarkably filmic 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that effortlessly renders the director’s every intention. Lyne’s palette is full of primary colors, realistic skintones, and enveloping blacks. Contrast is excellent as well, showing reliable depth and dimensionality into the image regardless of any particular scene’s lighting source and intensity. There are no saturation issues, compression limitations, and image dirt.

A handful of scenes do look softer than the rest of the film, but it’s largely the result of Lyne’s decision to pump smoke into many of his sets. Still, even though the lingering haze reduces clarity and obscures fine detail a bit at times, the effect rarely lasts long and doesn’t detract from the overall quality. This BD is major improvement over the DVD release and is the version of Unfaithful for film fans to own.

The Blu-ray edition of Unfaithful also includes a fine DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that weaves the film’s hushed conversations, sorrowful score, and intense encounters into an immersive whole. Regardless of how quiet the soundscape sometimes becomes, dialogue remains sharp and evenly distributed across the front channels, pans flawlessly transition from speaker to speaker, and directionality is remarkably precise. Aggressive low-end pulses are relegated to a few intense scenes in the second act, but subtle LFE support is present throughout the film — foreground and background voices have genuine weight, moving objects exhibit natural heft, and passing cars are often paired with the slightest of rumbles. All in all, a wonderful soundtrack is provided.

The Unfaithful Blu-ray provides a solid set of special features:

Full-Length Audio Commentary: Director Adrian Lyne discusses casting, the difficulties and challenges his actors faced on set, Unfaithful’s themes and characters and his issueswith studio interference during the shoot and his subsequent editing.

Scene Specific Actors’ Commentary: Running for just over an hour, this unrevealing commentary track finds Diane Lane and Oliver Martinez talking about their craft, commitment, and characters.

Deleted Scenes w/ Optional Director’s Commentary (HD, 17 minutes): Eleven cuts and a alternate ending.

An Affair to Remember (SD, 16 minutes): A solid behind-the-scenes featurette including the films talent but it doesn’t dig into the studio’s interference or the troubles faced by the production.

Cast Interviews (SD, 20 minutes): A collection of promotional interviews in which Lane, Gere, and Martinez discuss the film and their contributions to it.

The Charlie Rose Show Interview (SD, 19 minutes): Lyne, Lane, and Gere offer some engaging anecdotes and thoughts on the film.

Anne Coats on Editing (SD, 9 minutes): A featurette about editing and its influence on the tone and pacing of a film.

Director’s Script Notes

Theatrical Trailer