Unfaithful (2002 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byAdrian Lyne
Screenplay byAlvin Sargent
William Broyles Jr.
Based onThe Unfaithful Wife
1969 French-Italian film
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 the suburbs of 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 upscale Westchester County, New York with their 8-year-old son, Charlie. Their marriage is loving but monotonous and complacent.

While shopping in SoHo, the wind knocks Connie into a man, and they fall over. The man, Paul Martel, invites her to his apartment to treat her scraped knee. He cleans and ices her leg, then puts his hand on hers. Connie gives him her first name only. Paul insists she take a book before she leaves, pointing out a passage about seizing the moment. His number is inside the book.

Connie calls him from Grand Central Terminal. Paul invites her over, and they flirt again. On her third visit, they dance and have sex. Connie is simultaneously turned on and terrified at what she is doing. She finds excuses to continue visiting Paul. Edward becomes suspicious when he notices Connie's satin lingerie and catches her in a lie.

Edward fires an employee for perceived disloyalty. The employee, who's seen Connie and Paul together, tells him to look at his own family. Edward hires a private investigator and is devastated to see photos confirming the affair.

One day, Connie forgets to pick up Charlie from school and realizes she can’t carry on the affair anymore. She decides that she wants to end her affair with Paul. After doing a grocery shopping errand, she drives over to Paul’s home to tell him the news but spots him with another woman. She jealously confronts him, and they later have an heated argument. She questions him about the number of women he is seeing. An arrogant Paul contradicts his actions and claims the other is only a friend and nothing else. However Connie quickly sees through the his lies and calls him out on it. As Paul proceeds to exit the elevator, Connie calls him a liar, tells him that she hates him and makes it clear their affair is over. Paul then arrogantly provokes Connie and she angrily pushes him out of her way and starts walking away. However before she can reach the stairs, Paul manages to catch up with her. He then pushes her against the wall and starts to seduce her. Connie is resistant to this and begins to fight him off. However Paul is consistent and Connie becomes weak to his advances. Upon realising that she is still attracted to Paul, Connie forgives him. She then allows him to succeed in seducing her one last time to which he does. She then lets her guard down and has quick but erotic and passionate make-up sex with him in the hallway.

Connie leaves, narrowly missing Edward. Paul lets Edward in, and Edward is stunned to find a snow globe he had given Connie. He fractures Paul's skull with it, killing him. While cleaning up the evidence, he overhears Connie's voice message ending the affair. Edward erases it and puts Paul's body in the trunk of his car before dumping it in a landfill.

NYPD detectives find Connie's number at Paul's and visit the Sumners'. His estranged wife has reported him missing. Connie is surprised he had a wife, and claims she barely knows him. The cops later return when Paul's body is found. They and Edward notice Connie's reaction to the news.

At the dry cleaner, Connie finds the photos of her and Paul in Edward's clothes. She is distraught. At a party that night, she finds the snow globe back in their collection and realizes he may have had something to do with Paul's disappearance. When she confronts him, he angrily reveals that he’s known all along about her infidelity. He tearfully breaks down as he reminds her of how hard he worked to give her and Charlie a better life. He then accuses her of being ungrateful and throwing away all of his hard work for her affair with Paul. He finally confesses he wanted to kill her, not Paul.

Days later, Connie discovers a hidden compartment in the snow globe, where years earlier Edward had placed a photograph of them and infant Charlie, with the message ″To My Beautiful Wife, the Best Part of Every Day!″ Realizing how much he loved her, she gives Edward a look of remorse. She burns the incriminating photographs. Edward says he will turn himself in, but she objects, saying they will find a way to move on. They briefly return to a normal life together.

On their way home one evening, Edward stops at a red light. Connie falls into an escape fantasy that they could leave the country and assume new identities, and Edward agrees it sounds perfect. Consoling her as she cries, it is revealed that Edward has stopped the car next to a police station.







According to actor Richard Gere, an early draft of the screenplay presented the Sumners as suffering from a dysfunctional sexual relationship, which gave Connie some justification for having an affair. According to the actor and to director Adrian 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 videotaped 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 Diane 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 began in New York City on March 22, 2001 and wrapped on June 1, 2001 with Lyne shooting in continuity whenever possible. 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 reshoots 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


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

Critical response


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."[15] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 63 out of 100, based on reviews from 34 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[16] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "C+" on scale of A to F.[17][18]

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."[19] 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."[20] 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."[21] 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."[22]

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."[23] 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."[24] 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."[25] 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."[26] 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".[27]



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.[28] 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, losing the latter to Nicole Kidman in The Hours.[29] Entertainment Weekly ranked Unfaithful the 27th on their "50 Sexiest Movies Ever" list.[30]


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  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. Archived from the original on December 16, 2012. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
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  12. ^ "Talk Today: Interact with people in the news". USA Today. May 3, 2002. Retrieved November 18, 2015.
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  14. ^ "Unfaithful". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
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  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "UNFAITHFUL (2002) C+". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  19. ^ Tatara, Paul (May 9, 2002). "Sexually charged Unfaithful falls flat". CNN. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
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  21. ^ Ebert, Roger (May 10, 2002). "Unfaithful". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 3, 2007.
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  24. ^ Clark, Mike (May 11, 2002). "Unfaithful turns torrid affair scary". USA Today. Retrieved January 22, 2009.
  25. ^ Hunter, Stephen (May 10, 2002). "Unfaithful: Unfathomable Attraction". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  26. ^ Ansen, David (May 13, 2002). "Lust And Consequences". Newsweek. Retrieved March 22, 2022.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ Bowles, Scott (January 15, 2003). "Studio keeps Unfaithful out in open". USA Today. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  29. ^ "Winners: Big upsets". Detroit Free Press. March 24, 2003. p. 21. Archived from the original on October 3, 2022. Retrieved October 3, 2022 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  30. ^ "50 Sexiest Movies Ever: Nos. 50-26". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 6, 2018.