The End of the Affair (1999) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)


On the human side, this is a very subtle and complex story, written by Graham Greene about the experiences of a writer during the bombing of London in World War Two. On the other hand, it combines the understated human elements with some spiritual or mystical overtones which seem far larger than life.

Ralph Fiennes, playing the writer who bears a remarkable resemblance to Graham Greene, wanders though London on a rainy night just after the war when he chances upon an old acquaintance who also happens to be the husband of Fiennes' ex-lover (Julianne Moore). She was the great love of Fiennes' life, but broke off their relationship two years earlier - suddenly, unexpectedly, and apparently without cause. The husband, unaware of Fiennes' real relationship with her, confesses that he suspects she is unfaithful to him, and is considering using a detective service. Fiennes', still racked with a sense of loss, jealous of the husband for still having her,  jealous of the presumed current lover, and still curious about why she left him, agrees to act as the husband's surrogate in hiring the detective, thus placing him back in her life, after a fashion.

The lovers soon re-unite, and when they do, Moore explains why she had left Fiennes in the first place. During one of their assignations, Fiennes had apparently been killed by a bomb. Moore went into her room, got on her knees to God, and promised Him that she'd end the affair if He would only spare Fiennes. When Fiennes miraculously seemed to come back to life, Moore kept her promise to God and walked out of Fiennes' life "forever", or tried to.


There are many beautiful shots of Julianne Moore's breasts, and Ralph Fiennes' bottom also makes an appearance.
 Now we have two difficulties:
  1. In the course of the investigation, Fiennes and Moore come together again, which means that Fiennes himself is now being investigated by the operatives of the very detective agency he hired to follow Moore. Since the street detective and the representative in the office are two different men, nobody is aware at first that the man they are reporting to and they man they are reporting about are the same man! 
  2. More important, when Moore got back with Fiennes, she thereby broke her promise to God. God is not particularly happy about this. Not content simply to let her be tormented by her guilt, he decides to strike her down immediately with a fatal disease, even though she is obviously a good person. 

The final act of the play occurs when Moore dies. The detective who had been following Fiennes and Moore met Fiennes at Moore's funeral, and told him an amazing story. One day, the detective's son had been helping him tail Moore. The boy fell asleep at his post, and was actually awakened by Moore herself, who gave him some money and led him to the Underground. The boy had a severe skin disease on his left cheek. Moore touched him gently on the left cheek, and the boy was cured!

Obviously, God knew that Moore was a saintly and good person despite her broken promise.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.78:1

  • Full-length director commentary

  • full-length commentary by Julianne Moore

  • Making-of featurette

I'm not really into the whole guilt and punishment and miracle part of the story, but what I liked were the subtle and human touches. When the husband found out about Fiennes' real relationship with his wife, they all worked it out sensibly. Moore was obviously a deeply religious person, racked with guilt over her adultery, and she still loved her husband even though they had no passion together, and she still loved Fiennes deeply after they broke up. When Moore got fatally ill, the husband and Fiennes took turns caring for her. When she died, the two of them became best of friends, joined by something more powerful than that which separated them. 90% of the film carries a mood of resigned sadness, loss, and spiritual pain, and who better to play the husband than Steven Rea, that infinitely world-weary actor who specializes in resignation. I also enjoyed the performance by Ian Hart as the deferential but determined detective.

The movie is beautifully photographed, and was nominated for an Oscar for best cinematography. 

This tear-jerker is not everyone's cup of tea, but it is a beautifully mounted interpretation, beautifully acted, and I liked everything about it except the damned miracle. By the way, there was a 1955 movie made from the same popular novel, which was written in 1951. 


It was hard to sort out my feelings about this film. One of the reviewers at IMDB said it was probably the best film that could be made from the novel. I probably agree with that. The settings and costumes were very appropriate for the period and location (WW II England), and soft focus and subdued lighting were used for atmosphere. The technique was effective, but not much help for capping.

Warning: Spoiler Ahead

The story is a simple one. Julianne Moore is married to a Govt. official, but it is a sexless arrangement. She has an affair with a friend/neighbor who is researching her husband for material for a book. When he is caught in a bomb blast and seems dead, she begs God to save him, and promises to end the affair in return. God keeps up his end, and she tries for two years to keep up hers. Meanwhile, the author feels it was his jealousy that drove her away and becomes very bitter. They meet again, and the author hires a Private Eye to find out who she is cheating with now. He discovers the truth, and falls in love with her all over again. Unfortunately, she is terminally ill with some un-named coughing disease.

End spoiler

Several things detracted from the enjoyment of this film for me. First, the sexual interludes were scattered throughout in a series of flashbacks, which kept them from developing any sort of sexual energy. Second, neither the author nor the husband were very likable. Third, the "miracle" at the end (she kisses the Private Eye's son on a strawberry birthmark that completely covers one side of his face, and it goes away after her death) was a little over the top for me, and not necessary to the story. Last, there was a serious continuity problem. She was baptized Catholic by her mother who was Catholic, but was not raised in the church because her father was Jewish. After her death, the priest she had been seeing said that she could have been given a Catholic burial because "the church recognizes baptism of desire."

For those who are not familiar with Catholic Doctrine, here is a brief explanation:
1) You become a Catholic by being baptized. 2) There are three kinds of baptism; water, blood and desire. 3) Water involves pouring, sprinkling or submersion, and someone saying the proper words: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost." 4) Blood covers those martyrs who gave their life for the church before they could be baptized. 5) Desire is the catch-all that makes every sincere person a Catholic. If you admit the existence of God, and desire to do everything necessary for salvation, you have a baptism of desire and are a Catholic. Given that she had seen the priest several times, and that she would have been asked by him about baptism in the first meeting, the priest would never have mentioned baptism of desire, as she already had the baptism of water.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Apollo 84/100, Maltin 3/4.

  • nominated by the Golden Globes for Best Picture (Drama), and three other awards

  • nominated by the Academy for best Cinematography. Miss Moore was nominated as best actress.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.3, Apollo users 68/100
  • With their dollars ... it bombed, both in America and the UK. Made for $23 million, it grossed only $10 million in the USA, and about another $5 million in the UK.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Scoopy says, "This film is a C+. Excellent period romantic drama. If you like weepy-ass dyin' woman movies, bring out an extra box of Kleenex for this one, because it is the state-of-the-art in that sub-genre. Constant rain and fog, kisses under umbrellas, innumerable farewells, achingly beautiful images, hangdog expressions, punishment from God himself, and Steven Rea. Nearly the perfect recipe for a severe depression, lacking only Juliette Binoche to complete the great mandala of sadness." Tuna says, "All in all, I would say that it is a well-made film (other than the continuity error I noted above), and I enjoyed what was achieved technically, but I didn't relate to the story or the characters. C."

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