Unfaithful (2002 film)

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Unfaithful (2002 film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAdrian Lyne
Screenplay byAlvin Sargent
William Broyles Jr.
Based onThe Unfaithful Wife
by Claude Chabrol
Produced byAdrian Lyne
G. Mac Brown
CinematographyPeter Biziou
Edited byAnne V. Coates
Music byJan A. P. Kaczmarek
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • May 10, 2002 (2002-05-10)
Running time
124 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$50 million[1]
Box office$119.1 million

Unfaithful is a 2002 erotic thriller film directed and produced by Adrian Lyne and starring Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Olivier Martinez, Erik Per Sullivan, Chad Lowe, and Dominic Chianese. It was adapted by Alvin Sargent and William Broyles Jr. from the 1969 French film The Unfaithful Wife by Claude Chabrol. It tells the story of a couple living in suburban New York City whose marriage goes dangerously awry when the wife indulges in an affair with a stranger she encounters by chance.

Unfaithful grossed $52 million in North America and $119.1 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 and Connie Sumner live in Westchester County, New York with their eight-year-old son, Charlie. Their marriage is loving but a little monotonous and lacking in passion. While shopping in the city, the wind knocks Connie into stranger Paul Martel and they both fall over. Seeing that she's scraped her knees, Paul invites her upstairs to his apartment to treat her injuries. Uncomfortable with his advances, she leaves.

Finding Paul's phone number inside the book he gave her, Connie goes into the city and calls him. He invites her over and when she arrives, he again flirts with her. She leaves despite their mutual attraction, but visits again, and they share a dance. Again uncomfortable, Connie rushes out. When she returns to retrieve her coat, Paul literally sweeps her off her feet, carries her off to his bedroom, and they have sex. Connie is simultaneously turned on and terrified at what she's doing. However, they both relish the thrill of their affair, and Connie uses her work as an excuse to continue visiting Paul. Edward accidentally catches her in a lie, when a friend she said she was meeting for a fundraiser says he was out of town. This information makes Edward suspicious, and he notices Connie buying herself new lingerie, and daydreaming. Edward asks her to meet him for lunch one day, but she says can't because she has a salon appointment. Edward calls the salon and confirms Connie was lying.

Edward hires a private investigator, Frank Wilson, and is devastated when he provides pictures of Connie and Paul together. The affair is taking its toll on Connie. Even though she feels guilty, Paul is distracting her from her family, and she is late to pick up Charlie from school.

She realizes she can no longer carry on the affair. The following day, she goes to the grocery store to buy some groceries and then after she drives to Paul's home and prepares to end things in person. While she drives to his apartment, she discovers him running off to the library with another woman. She jumps out of her car and runs to the library to confront Paul and the other woman. As she is in the elevator alone with Paul, they have an argument. She questions him on how many women is he seeing but Paul avoids answering the question and tells Connie that the other woman is just a friend and nothing more. She then tells Paul that she doesn't want to see him anymore and angrily tells him their affair is over. She also calls Paul a liar and tells him that she hates him. However, as she angrily storms out of Paul's apartment, he manages to chase after Connie, pushes her against the wall, and begins to seduce her. Connie then tries to push Paul away but she eventually gives in to him and they have sex in the hallway of his apartment. She leaves, narrowly missing Edward, who has arrived to confront Paul. Paul lets him into his apartment and they discuss Connie. Edward is stunned to find a snow globe he had given her in the past, which Paul explains she had gifted to him. Edward is clearly becoming overwhelmed and snaps and fractures Paul's skull with the snow globe, killing him instantly.

While cleaning up the evidence, Edward overhears a crying Connie leave a message for Paul, saying that she's ending the affair; she's tired of lying and hurting her family. Edward erases the message and puts Paul's body in the trunk of his car, and drives to Charlie's school play. In the parking lot, someone bumps into the back of his car, denting the trunk. Edward is scared he'll be found out but he tells the person not to worry about the damage. He later dumps Paul's body in a landfill.

NYPD detectives arrive at the Sumner home, explaining that Paul's estranged wife has reported him missing. Connie is surprised to hear he had a wife, and claims she barely knows him. The detectives return a week later to reveal that Paul's body has been discovered. Edward and the detectives notice Connie growing visibly distraught upon hearing the news. Connie lies that she met Paul at a fundraiser which, to her surprise, Edward corroborates. Later, when taking Edward's clothes to the dry cleaner, she finds the photos of her and Paul, realizing Edward has known about the affair. At a party later she notices that the snow globe she gifted Paul has been returned to their collection. Sharing a meaningful look with Edward, she realizes he murdered Paul.

They argue, and Edward says that he wanted to kill her instead of Paul. In the days that follow, Connie discovers a hidden compartment in the snow globe containing a photograph of her, Edward, and an infant Charlie, with a loving anniversary message. She and Edward share sad looks.

As she burns the photographs of her and Paul, Edward says he will turn himself in, but Connie objects, saying they will find a way to move on, and they appear to return to a normal life together.

On their way home from an event one evening, Edward stops at a red light with Charlie asleep in the backseat. Connie whispers that they could leave the country and assume new identities, and Edward agrees, consoling her as she cries. It is revealed that Edward has stopped the car near a police station.




According to actor Gere, an early draft of the screenplay 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.[2]


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."[3]

Lyne cast Lane in the role of Constance after seeing her in the film, A Walk on the Moon.[2] 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."[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]


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.[6]

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".[2] According to Biziou, "The texture it gives helps differentiate and separate various density levels of darkness farther back in frame".[6] 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.[2]

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.[2] 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.[5] 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."[7] 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."[8]

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.[9] 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.[6]


Lyne shot five different endings to Unfaithful based on his experiences with Fatal Attraction, whose initial ending was rejected by the test audience.[5] 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."[10] 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;[8] 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.[2] 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",[11] saying he intentionally "wanted to do a more ambiguous ending, which treats the audience much more intelligently".[12]


Box office[edit]

Unfaithful was released in 2,617 theaters in the United States on May 10, 2002, and grossed US$14 million on its first weekend, with an average of $5,374 per screen. It made $52 million in the U.S. and Canada, and a total of $119 million worldwide, well above its $50 million budget.[13]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a rating of 50% based on 165 reviews, with an average rating of 5.80/10. The consensus reads, "Diane Lane shines in the role, but the movie adds nothing new to the genre and the resolution is unsatisfying."[14] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 63 out of 100, based on reviews from 34 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[15] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "C+" on scale of A to F.[16][17]

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."[18] 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."[19] 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."[20] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times 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."[21]

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."[22] USA Today gave the film three-and-a-half 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."[23] 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."[24] 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."[25] 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".[26]


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.[27] 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.[28]


  1. ^ "Unfaithful (2002) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Kobel, Peter (May 5, 2002). "Smoke to Go With the Steam". The New York Times. Retrieved June 19, 2008.
  3. ^ Topel, Fred (2002). "Olivier Martinez Interview – Unfaithful". About.com: Hollywood Movies. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  4. ^ Wolk, Josh (2002). "Meet Unfaithful's Diane Lane". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c Whipp, Glenn (May 10, 2002). "Uncovered". Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ a b c d Martin, Kevin H (June 2002). "Broken Vows". American Cinematographer.
  7. ^ Murray, Rebecca (2002). "Diane Lane Interview – Unfaithful". About.com: Hollywood Movies. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  8. ^ a b Bhattacharya, Sanjiv (May 26, 2002). "Memory Lane". The Guardian. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  9. ^ Iley, Chrissy (June 10, 2002). "Always In and Out of Passion". The Times.
  10. ^ Wloszczyna, Susan (May 9, 2002). "Director Adrian Lyne, faithful to sexual themes". USA Today.
  11. ^ "Director Tweaks Unfaithful Ending". Los Angeles Times. May 6, 2002. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  12. ^ "Talk Today: Interact with people in the news". USA Today. May 3, 2002. Retrieved November 18, 2015.
  13. ^ "Unfaithful". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  14. ^ "Unfaithful (2002)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  15. ^ "Unfaithful Reviews". Metacritic.
  16. ^ Gray, Brandon (May 12, 2002). "'Spider-Man' Nets More Records with $71.4 Million Second Weekend". Box Office Mojo. moviegoers polled by CinemaScore on opening night gave Unfaithful a C+, suggesting that it may suffer from poor word-of-mouth.
  17. ^ "UNFAITHFUL (2002) C+". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  18. ^ Tatara, Paul (May 9, 2002). "Sexually charged Unfaithful falls flat". CNN. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  19. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (May 17, 2002). "Unfaithful". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 22, 2022.
  20. ^ Ebert, Roger (May 10, 2002). "Unfaithful". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 3, 2007.
  21. ^ Turan, Kenneth (May 8, 2002). "Unfaithful". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 6, 2008. Retrieved January 22, 2009.
  22. ^ Holden, Stephen (May 8, 2002). "Day in Town Takes an Unexpected Tryst". The New York Times. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  23. ^ Clark, Mike (May 11, 2002). "Unfaithful turns torrid affair scary". USA Today. Retrieved January 22, 2009.
  24. ^ Hunter, Stephen (May 10, 2002). "Unfaithful: Unfathomable Attraction". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  25. ^ Ansen, David (May 13, 2002). "Lust And Consequences". Newsweek. Retrieved March 22, 2022.
  26. ^ Sarris, Andrew (May 12, 2002). "Diane Lane Stumbles, Smolders-Richard Gere Plays the Square". The New York Observer. Archived from the original on June 24, 2008. Retrieved March 20, 2009.
  27. ^ Bowles, Scott (January 15, 2003). "Studio keeps Unfaithful out in open". USA Today. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  28. ^ "50 Sexiest Movies Ever: Nos. 50-26". ew.com. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 6, 2018.

External links[edit]