Unfaithful (2002 film)

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Unfaithful (2002 film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Adrian Lyne
Produced by Adrian Lyne
Arnon Milchan
G. Mac Brown
Screenplay by Alvin Sargent
William Broyles Jr.
Based on The Unfaithful Wife 
by Claude Chabrol
Starring Richard Gere
Diane Lane
Olivier Martinez
Erik Per Sullivan
Music by Jan A. P. Kaczmarek
Cinematography Peter Biziou
Edited by Anne Coates
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • May 10, 2002 (2002-05-10)
Running time
124 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $50 million
Box office $119,137,784

Unfaithful is a 2002 American thriller drama film directed by Adrian Lyne and starring Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Chad Lowe, Dominic Chianese and Olivier Martinez. It was adapted by Alvin Sargent and William Broyles Jr. from the French film The Unfaithful Wife (La Femme infidèle, 1968) by the noted director Claude Chabrol. It tells about a couple living in suburban New York City whose marriage goes dangerously awry when the wife indulges in an adulterous affair with a stranger she encounters by chance.

Unfaithful grossed $52 million in North America and a total of $119 million worldwide. Despite mixed reviews overall, Lane received much praise for her performance. She won awards for best actress from the National Society of Film Critics and New York Film Critics, and was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Actress.


Edward (Richard Gere) and Connie Sumner (Diane Lane) are a married couple living in New York City with their eight-year-old son, Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan). Their relationship is loving but lacking intimacy due to their schedules. One afternoon, Connie goes shopping for Charlie's upcoming birthday party. She is caught in a heavy windstorm and runs into a handsome stranger (Olivier Martinez). They both fall and Connie scrapes her knees. He offers to treat her injuries in his apartment and she accepts. Inside, the man introduces himself as Paul Martel, a twenty-seven-year-old used book salesman. Paul makes small advances toward Connie, which makes her uncomfortable and decides to leave. Before doing so, Paul then gives her a book of Persian poetry as a gift. Connie tells Edward what happened after returning home, and he suggests they buy Paul a thank you gift.

While reading the book Paul gave her, Connie finds his phone number inside. Connie calls Paul for his address but he invites her over for coffee instead. Paul reads Connie a book in Braille amidst mild flirting. Connie, despite her feelings of attraction, leaves. Connie is unable to stop thinking about Paul and decides to visit him with a bag of muffins. After Connie and Paul have a dance, she stops, saying she can't continue, and leaves. When she returns to retrieve her coat, Paul literally sweeps her off her feet and into his bedroom. While on a train ride home, Connie recalls their sexual encounter. She is thrilled at the sexual attention she is receiving from a younger man but feels guilty at the same time. Connie uses her work at a charity event as an excuse to visit Paul more frequently, but Edward finds inconsistencies in her stories when he speaks with friends.

Edward, suspicious, decides to hire private investigator, Frank Wilson (Dominic Chianese), to follow her. Frank returns with pictures of Connie and Paul leaving a movie theatre, which devastates Edward. Connie's visits with Paul become more frequent to the point that she is late to pick up Charlie from school. Following this incident, she realizes she can no longer carry on the affair. Unsuccessfully trying to end the affair over the phone, Connie decides it would be best to do so in person. She spots Paul with another woman when she arrives. After confronting Paul, their argument ends in a tryst in the stairwell. At the same time, Edward is standing outside Paul's apartment building, where Edward and Connie narrowly miss each other. Edward goes to Paul's doorstep and confronts him, revealing that he is Connie's husband. After Paul invites him in, Edward is stunned to see a snow globe there, which he recognizes as a gift to Connie for their anniversary. Paul reveals that Connie gave it to him as a gift. Edward hits Paul with the snow globe, fracturing his skull and killing him.

After wrapping Paul's body in a rug, Edward hears Connie leaving a message on Paul's answering machine, saying she must end the affair. Edward erases the message and leaves, putting Paul's body in the trunk of his car. In the ensuing days, Edward is unable to stop thinking about the murder. He dumps Paul's body at a landfill and visits Charlie's school play afterwards. When two police detectives arrive at the Sumner home, they explain that Paul's estranged wife had reported him missing and they had found Connie's phone number in his apartment. Connie claims she only bought a book from him. A week later, the detectives return and tell Connie that they found Paul's body. When police ask her how she first met Paul, she replies that she met Paul at a fundraiser. To Connie's surprise, Edward corroborates her story. Later that night, Connie finds Frank's photos and realizes that Edward knows about the affair. After noticing the snow globe has been returned, Connie deduces that Edward murdered Paul.

Connie and Edward argue and, out of anger and frustration, Edward says that he wanted to kill her instead of Paul. While looking underneath the snow globe in the days that follow, Connie discovers a hidden compartment containing a photograph of her, Edward, and an infant Charlie, with a loving anniversary message from Edward. As Connie is burning photographs of her and Paul in the fireplace, Edward says he will turn himself in. Connie objects, saying they will find a way to move on. The two then appear to go about living a normal life. One night, while driving, with Charlie sleeping in the backseat, Edward stops the car. Connie looks at Edward and whispers to him that they could leave the country and get new identities, and Edward agrees to the idea. However, Connie then starts crying and Edward consoles her. The car is seen near a police station, and as the credits roll, the stoplight turns green. Edward and Connie are free for now, but the threat of arrest remains.



According to actor Gere, an early draft of the screenplay, which he read several years ago, presented the Sumners as suffering from a dysfunctional sexual relationship. It gave Connie some justification for having an affair. According to the actor and to director Lyne, the studio wanted to change the storyline so that the Sumners had a bad marriage with no sex, to create greater sympathy for Connie. Both men opposed the change; Lyne in particular felt that the studio's suggestions would have robbed the film of any drama: "I wanted two people who were perfectly happy. I loved the idea of the totally arbitrary nature of infidelity." The Sumners' relationship was rewritten as a good marriage, with her affair the result of a chance meeting.[1]


During pre-production, the producers received a video-taped audition from Olivier Martinez, who was selected for Paul. His character was portrayed as French once Martinez was cast. Lyne said, "I think it helps one understand how Connie might have leapt into this affair--he's very beguiling, doing even ordinary things." Once cast in the role, Martinez, with Lyne's approval, changed some of his dialogue and the scene in which he first seduces Lane's character, while she is looking at a book in Braille. According to Martinez, "The story that was invented before was much more sensual, erotic and clear."[2]

Lyne cast Lane in the role of Constance after seeing her in the film, A Walk on the Moon.[1] He felt that the actress "breathes a certain sexuality. But she's sympathetic, and I think so many sexy women tend to be tough and hard at the same time."[3] Lyne also wanted Gere and Lane to gain weight in order to portray the comfort of a middle-age couple. In particular, he wanted Gere to gain 30 pounds and left donuts in the actor's trailer every morning.[4]

Lyne asked director of photography Peter Biziou, with whom he made 9½ Weeks, to shoot Unfaithful. After reading the script, Biziou felt that the story was appropriate for the classic 1.85:1 aspect ratio because it "so often has two characters working together in the frame". During pre-production, Biziou, Lyne and production designer Brian Morris used a collection of still photographs as style references. These included photos from fashion magazines and shots by prominent photographers.[5]

Principal photography[edit]

Initially, the story was set against snowy exteriors, but this idea was rejected early on. Principal photography started on March 22, 2001 and wrapped on June 1, 2001 with Lyne shooting in continuity whenever possible. The film was primarily shot in New York City. During the windstorm sequence where Connie first meets Paul, it rained and Lyne used the overcast weather conditions for the street scenes. The director also preferred shooting practical interiors on location so that the actors could "feel an intimate sense of belonging", Biziou recalls. The cinematographer also used natural light as much as possible.[5]

At times, Lyne's directing took its toll on the cast and crew. In a scene taking place in an office, the director pumped it full of smoke, an effect that "makes the colors less contrasty, more muted".[1] According to Biziou, "The texture it gives helps differentiate and separate various density levels of darkness farther back in frame".[5] The smoke was piped in for 18 to 20 hours a day and Gere remembers, "Our throats were being blown out. We had a special doctor who was there almost all the time who was shooting people up with antibiotics for bronchial infections". Lane acquired an oxygen bottle in order to survive the rigorous schedule.[1]

The film has many explicit sex scenes, including a tryst in a restaurant bathroom and a passionate exchange in an apartment building hallway. Lyne's repeated takes for these scenes were demanding for the actors, especially for Lane, who had to be emotionally and physically fit for the scenes.[1] To prepare for the initial love scene between Paul and Constance, Lyne had the actors watch clips from Fatal Attraction, Five Easy Pieces, and Last Tango in Paris.[4] Lane and Martinez would also talk over the scenes in his trailer beforehand. Once on the set, they felt uncomfortable until several takes in. She said, "My comfort level with it just had to catch up quickly if I wanted to be the actress to play it."[6] Martinez was not comfortable with nudity. Lane said that Lyne would often shoot a whole magazine of film, "so one take was as long as five takes. By the end, you're physically and emotionally shattered."[7]

Lane had not met Martinez before filming, and they did not get to know each other well during the shoot, mirroring the relationship between their characters.[8] A full four weeks of the schedule was dedicated to the scenes in Paul's loft, which was located on the third floor of a six-story building located on Greene Street. Biziou often used two cameras for the film's intimate scenes to reduce the number of takes that had to be shot.[5]


Lyne shot five different endings to Unfaithful based on his experiences with Fatal Attraction, whose initial ending was rejected by the test audience.[4] According to Lyne, he had some debate with the 20th Century Fox officials, who wanted to "make the marriage gray, the sex bad. I fought that. I tried to explore the guilt, the jealousy—that's what I'm interested in."[9] The studio did not like the film's "enigmatic" ending, which they felt failed to punish crimes committed by the characters. It imposed a "particularly jarring 'Hollywood' final line", which angered Gere.

Following negative reactions from test audiences, the studio reinstated the original ending;[7] a few weeks before the film was to open in theaters, Lyne asked Gere and Lane to return to Los Angeles for re-shoots of the ending.[1] Lyne claimed that the new ending was more ambiguous than the original and was the original one by screenwriter Alvin Sargent. Lyne also thought the new ending "would be more interesting and provoke more discussion,"[10] saying he intentionally "wanted to do a more ambiguous ending, which treats the audience much more intelligently."[11]


Unfaithful opened on May 10, 2002 in 2,617 theaters and grossed US$14 million with an average of $5,374 per screen. It made $52 million in North America and a total of $119 million worldwide, well above its $50 million budget.[12]

Critical response[edit]

The film received mixed reviews, though Diane Lane earned widespread praise for her performance. It currently has a rating of 49% on Rotten Tomatoes. CNN film critic Paul Tatara wrote, "The audience when I saw this one was chuckling at all the wrong times, and that's a bad sign when they're supposed to be having a collective heart attack."[13] Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman awarded the film an "A-" grade and praised Lane for delivering "the most urgent performance of her career", writing that she "is a revelation. The play of lust, romance, degradation, and guilt on her face is the movie's real story."[14] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "Instead of pumping up the plot with recycled manufactured thrills, it's content to contemplate two reasonably sane adults who get themselves into an almost insoluble dilemma."[15] In the Los Angeles Times, the critic Kenneth Turan wrote, "The only performer who manages to get inside her character is Lane. Whether it's her initial half-distrustful tentativeness, her later sensual abandon or her never-ending ambivalence, Lane's Constance seems to be actually living the role in a way no one else matches, a way we can all connect to."[16]

Stephen Holden in The New York Times praised the "taut, economical screenplay" that "digs into its characters' marrow (and into the perfectly selected details of domestic life) without wasting a word. That screenplay helps to ground a film whose visual imagination hovers somewhere between soap opera and a portentous pop surrealism."[17] USA Today gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and Mike Clark wrote, "Diane Lane also reaches a new career plateau with her best performance since 1979's A Little Romance."[18] In his review for the Washington Post, Stephen Hunter wrote, "In the end, Unfaithful leaves you dispirited and grumpy: All that money spent, all that talent wasted, all that time gone forever, and for what? It's an ill movie that bloweth no man to good."[19] David Ansen, in his review for Newsweek, wrote, "Unfaithful shows what a powerful, sexy, smart filmmaker Lyne can be. It's a shame he substitutes the mechanics of suspense for the real suspense of what goes on between a man and a woman, a husband and a wife."[20] Andrew Sarris, in his review for The New York Observer, wrote, "Ultimately Unfaithful is escapism in its purest form, and I am willing to experience it on that level, even though with all the unalloyed joy on display, there's almost no humor," and concluded that it was "one of the very few mainstream movies currently directed exclusively to grown-ups."[21]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The studio campaign's theme consisted of what the studio called the film's "iconic scene": Constance recalling her first tryst with Paul as she takes a train home. According to Tom Rothman, chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment, "That scene captured the power of her performance. It's what everyone talked about after they saw her." Four days before the New York Film Critics Circle's vote, Lane was given a career tribute by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. A day before that, Lyne held a dinner for the actress at the Four Seasons Hotel. Critics and award voters were invited to both.[22] Lane won the National Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle awards and was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Actress. Entertainment Weekly ranked Unfaithful the 27th on their "50 Sexiest Movies Ever" list.[23]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Kobel, Peter (2002-05-05). "Smoke to Go With the Steam". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  2. ^ Topel, Fred (2002). "Olivier Martinez Interview – Unfaithful". About.com: Hollywood Movies. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  3. ^ Wolk, Josh (2002). "Meet Unfaithful's Diane Lane". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  4. ^ a b c Whipp, Glenn (2002-05-10). "Uncovered". Los Angeles Times. 
  5. ^ a b c d Martin, Kevin H (June 2002). "Broken Vows". American Cinematographer. 
  6. ^ Murray, Rebecca (2002). "Diane Lane Interview – Unfaithful". About.com: Hollywood Movies. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  7. ^ a b Bhattacharya, Sanjiv (2002-05-26). "Memory Lane". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  8. ^ Iley, Chrissy (2002-06-10). "Always In and Out of Passion". The Times. 
  9. ^ Wloszczyna, Susan (2002-05-09). "Director Adrian Lyne, faithful to sexual themes". USA Today. 
  10. ^ "Director Tweaks Unfaithful Ending". Los Angeles Times. 2002-05-06. Retrieved 2010-06-10. 
  11. ^ "Talk Today: Interact with people in the news". USA Today. 2002-05-03. Retrieved 2015-11-18. 
  12. ^ "Unfaithful". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  13. ^ Tatara, Paul (2002-05-09). "Sexually charged Unfaithful falls flat". CNN. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  14. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (2002-05-17). "Unfaithful". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (2002-05-10). "Unfaithful". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-10-03. 
  16. ^ Turan, Kenneth (2002-05-08). "Unfaithful". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-01-22. [dead link]
  17. ^ Holden, Stephen (2002-05-08). "Day in Town Takes an Unexpected Tryst". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  18. ^ Clark, Mike (2002-05-11). "Unfaithful turns torrid affair scary". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  19. ^ Hunter, Stephen (2002-05-10). "Unfaithful: Unfathomable Attraction". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  20. ^ Ansen, David (2002-05-13). "Lust And Consequences". Newsweek. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  21. ^ Sarris, Andrew (2002-05-12). "Diane Lane Stumbles, Smolders-Richard Gere Plays the Square". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2009-03-20. 
  22. ^ Bowles, Scott (2003-01-15). "Studio keeps Unfaithful out in open". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  23. ^ "50 Sexiest Movies Ever". Entertainment Weekly. 2008-11-29. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 

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