Ralph Fiennes seems to have been born to play the role of the brooding romantic figure. He has that persona that instantly requires empathy for him. He embodies his roles so fully that the audience can’t help but feel his pain. He did a terrific job in The English Patient by portraying a physically disabled man who falls for a married woman. This role garnered Fiennes an Oscar nomination that he surely should have won.
The End of the Affair is another fine example of Fiennes’ remarkable acting abilities. Fiennes plays Maurice Bendrix, a novelist who falls in love with the wife (Julianne Moore) of a friend (Stephen Rea). Sarah and Maurice become engaged in a passionate affair, unbeknownst to Henry. Henry, who neglects his wife, is a mild-mannered man who does not have any strong emotions. He seems to go through life quietly trying to please everyone. His wife seems to consider their marriage as a friendship, which shows just how unaffectionate Henry is.
As the movie progresses, the audience sits in suspense of what will happen to this love triangle. The audience instantly roots for Maurice and Sarah to somehow stay together, but there is always this feeling that disaster is right around the corner. Things finally come to a head and produce a very surprising ending.
Stephen Rea, who is a frequent collaborator of director Neil Jordan, does a great job of portraying a man who lacks the courage and spirit to be a husband to his wife. Henry provides an excellent contrast to Maurice, who is a man ruled by his feelings. Maurice does not hesitate to show his true emotions, no matter how they are viewed by others. Sarah holds a power over these two completely opposite men that is interesting to watch develop throughout the film. She seems to have an essence that both men are trying to embrace. The beautiful Julianne Moore presents Sarah as a woman who seems to always be out of reach to Henry and Maurice. Sarah stands independently from the wills of these two men.
The End of the Affair is a serious romantic drama that is remarkably well done. This movie does away with all the clichés that we have come to expect from romantic films and does not rely on being overly sentimental. The acting of the main cast is so absorbing that the audience hangs onto their every action and word. I highly recommend this movie for those who are fans of these great actors and who are interested in a captivating romantic film.