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Reviews & Ratings for
Affliction More at IMDbPro »

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A Child Cast as a Man

Author: slonob from Iowa City, IA
24 November 2002

The movie starts with Wade Whitehouse bringing his daughter to a small town Halloween party. The distance between the two is apparent and about to get worse. They arrive, daughter dressed as a tiger, Wade dressed as a cop. He is a child dressed as a man. The daughter is out of place and unhappy, making this known to Wade. Facing a challenge that is beyond him, he steps outside where he is pulled into the life of some younger people, driving around town, getting stoned and being generally small-town.

Why does Wade shy away from being a man? Because his definition of a man is his father, an abusive and alcoholic ogre. Wade has found peace in being a parody of an adult. He can hang with kids just shy of high school because he has not permitted himself to grow any older than just short of manhood. He is pathetic, but he is also very amiable. He could live his whole life this way. That is, he could if he hadn't already committed to fatherhood and if the new love of his life didn't expect a bit more.

His new love, Marge, is a small town woman through and through. Perhaps she has been passed around a bit, but she has a good heart. She seems barely content with drifting through life, staying just short of ambitious. Perhaps she'll marry her bear-cub boyfriend Wade and have a family while she can. Perhaps not. She is smarter than Wade, but he is fun and harmless, it seems.

Wade's brother, Rolfe, is the kid who managed to avoid the blows of his father. He is the smart one. Smart enough to stay far enough away from his father, smart enough to distract himself from the ruins of abuse with intellectual pursuits. His intelligence bought him a way out. He is committed only to himself.

Exposing his own aggression, Rolfe plants seeds in Wade that will soon be Wade's undoing. To Rolfe, it's all a bit fun. When he's back in his home-town, he returns to a role. He and Wade are kids up to no good. They are sleuths, unlocking the truth of the grown-ups. There is no risk to Rolfe since his brother has and will be the shield.

Wade's role is stressed in a series of events. He has been powerless in keeping his family together. His ex-wife outgrew him and has moved on. He is powerless against even the will of his daughter. He has not seemed to even notice that she is not 6 anymore, and that she has begun to recognize his shortcomings. All this, he must change.

He had been handed the role of a cop, not for merit, but for obedience to the town's owners. This must change.

His father has become incompetent and might have even let his mother die from exposure. Wade becomes the head of the household and thus launches his new interest in a commanding role. But a commanding role requires a man. For Wade, a man is an monster. Needless to say, it doesn't go well for Wade and all who surround him.

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8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A movie with no direction

Author: Nick DeMers from Groveton, New Hampshire
17 February 2000

Affliction they called it. Ya it had pain and grief, so the title did fit the movie very well. However this movie had no direction. There were many little problems through out the movie, which at times made it hard to focus on because the movie kept switching from a set of characters struggles to a different set. As I watched this movie, I kept thinking that they would tie in some of these issues and bring the story together in the end, but it never happened. This movie was a very slow and dry paced film. Yes at the end of the movie, it was clear what the main goal was, but how they got there was simply terrible. I don't recommend this movie to anyone. I endured an hour and 55 minutes of it and I never would again.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Blistering, unflinching.

Author: Rockwell_Cronenberg from United States
31 March 2012

Affliction, written and directed by the great Paul Schrader from a novel by Russell Banks, starts off like a story you've heard a thousand times. Wade Whitehouse (Nick Nolte) is the sheriff of a small New Hampshire town. He's also a heavy drinker with an ex-wife who can't stand him and a daughter who spends her time pouting and asking to go home to her mother. One day a hunting "accident" leaves a wealthy businessman dead, and Wade sees this as his opportunity to prove his worth to his family, his town and himself. Under the hands of Schrader though, someone who has never taken the safe road as a filmmaker, this small town neo-noir thriller turns into a wrenching study of a deeply disturbed individual.

What began as an intriguing mystery instead takes a descent into madness, unraveling this man and exposing the brutality that has long been dormant, waiting underneath the surface for the right circumstances to come about. Whitehouse is subtly picked apart by small disturbances, like a gnawing tooth ache and his ungrateful, unloving daughter, that Schrader intelligently weaves into this building sense of aggression and frustration. By the time his daughter refuses to get a Big Mac because her mother says it's bad for her, the audience is down to their last nerve the same way that Whitehouse is. It's an incredible display of bringing the viewer into the mind of it's main character, which builds to a final act that is shattering and terrifying.

Schrader's script is immaculately staged here, the kind of intelligent writing where there isn't a single wasted moment. The first hour of the film is almost all character development, which services everything perfectly. It's all building the sense that things are coming to a dramatic climax, where every path, no matter how large or small, ultimately leads to one destination. As these minor distractions plague on him, Whitehouse continues his investigation into the death, but what takes a more center stage as the film progresses is his chaotic relationship with his father, portrayed by James Coburn. We start to see that it's this father/son dynamic that has made Whitehouse such a disturbed individual, his father being a terrifying bastard of a man who abused him as a child while he drank himself into short-tempered rages.

In this dynamic, Affliction starts to become a study of what kind of impact that relationship can have on the development of a person, that can grow inside of him and change the course of who he is to become. Is Whitehouse a bad man at heart, or was he made that way by his father? He seems good when we first meet him, trying his hardest despite his character faults, but as he goes down this descent the audience is left to wonder if the father makes the man, if a different patriarch could have led him down a path much less dark. Coburn is a terrifying force here, a man who makes you uncomfortable from the moment he steps into the room. Even when he's not in a rage, you can feel it in the air, the fear that it can come at any moment. It's a palpable sensation that anyone with a short-tempered father can immediately relate to. Casting this man was a hard task for Schrader, as he had to find someone who could make the intimidating Nick Nolte quake in his boots, and there couldn't have been anyone more suited for the job than Coburn.

Nolte's performance likewise is a work of art and takes us so thoroughly down this road to darkness that Whitehouse experiences. He makes you sympathize with him, perhaps even empathize as I most certainly did, which makes his explosion, his unbridled descent all the more wrenching. There's a scene where he lets loose, completely explodes on a tirade about how this town needs him, that is one of the most shockingly chilling moments I've experienced in some time. It leaves you unable to move, a towering display of machismo in the face of potential emasculation. This is what the film boils down to in a lot of ways, the things that make a man and what being a man really means.

Interestingly, the story is told from the outside perspective of Whitehouse's brother Rolfe, played by the always great Willem Dafoe. Instead of having the story told through the eyes of Wade, instead we see it all as Rolfe looking back, filled with an eerie sense of remorse that he wasn't able to stop what was coming. Dafoe only appears physically on screen for about ten or fifteen minutes, but you can feel his presence looming over the picture the whole way through, as we occasionally hear him through voice-over. His intriguing voice captures the audience, giving Affliction a troubling, almost poetic neo-noir feel that broods while the characters explode. It's the perfect contrast to the towering work delivered by Schrader and his actors on screen. This is a shattering picture.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Well Acted, But Unrelentingly Grim

Author: evanston_dad from United States
21 June 2010

Nick Nolte tears up the screen as a bundle of raw nerves in this harrowing domestic drama. I can appreciate the skill that went into the film, and it features some terrific performances, but I can't say I necessarily enjoyed it, as it's intense and unsettling.

Nolte plays a man struggling with his own incompetence as a father even as he watches his own horrid father -- once a towering and frightening figure of discipline and stern rule -- teeter into old age and decrepitude. James Coburn plays the father, and the man he creates on screen is monstrous.

The film is unrelentingly grim and at times downright uncomfortable. It brought Coburn his lone Oscar nomination and win and won Nolte the second of his two Best Actor nominations.

Grade: B+

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

One man's destiny

Author: larrymoto from Bakersfield, California
23 July 2008

Nick Nolte shines in Affliction with his stark portrayal of a man, Wade Whitehouse, who desperately attempts to emotionally distance himself from his abusive, alcoholic father (Coburn) in this gripping and not to cheery indie gem.

Wade is a cop in a small New Hampshire town relegated to crossing guard duty and odd jobs trying to make ends meet. He is going nowhere in life. When a man dies in a hunting accident, Wade suspects foul play and opens an investigation. His quest to find answers detours away from detective work and closes in on his own truth about who he is and what he is about to become.

This movie is less about a plot and more about real life and how people seek to find their own place in the world.

Nolte's Wade is caught between wanting his fathers approval and hating him for not understanding who he really is.

Coburn fills the screen as Wade's mean spirited father and Sissy Spacek does a fine job as Wade's girlfriend who struggles to understand why he is coming unhinged.

Willem Dafoe plays Wade's brother and the one in the family who gets out of Dodge. He also provides voice over to tie up the loose ends.

Highly recommended for superb acting and great character study.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Outstanding Acting

Author: Falcon-51 from South Carolina
27 April 2000

Nick Nolte, Sissy Spacek, & James Coburn turn in some of the finest acting of their careers. James Coburn even won an Oscar for his performance in this film. Although already talented these three actors prove their worth even more solidly. Director Paul Schrader has done an excellent job as well. Now heres where I have a problem. What was Russel Banks thinking when he wrote this ending. It seems like there should be some revenge here or something. Not bad but I feel I may never understand the ending of this film. Otherwise I give the film high marks for outstanding performances.

The story is about a small town cop that seems to have lost everything, but he has even more to lose. He tries one last chance at becoming an important figure in his town when he investigates a mysterious death.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Deep rooted anger causes a man to unravel.

Author: Michael O'Keefe from Muskogee OK
26 April 2000

Nick Nolte plays a small town peace officer in a snow bound New England town. A town so small, corruption is no secret. Underhanded people are allowed to rule. Nolte's character starts to mentally breakdown when trying to get custody of his estranged daughter and being forced to not investigate too deeply a hunting accident. Memories of the childhood abuse inflicted by his father soon overrides his thoughts.

Nolte is at his best. It is very easy to dislike James Coburn as the tyrant father. Sissy Spacek and Jim True round out the cast. A gritty and grueling story to watch. Location scenery makes you feel the exposed emotions.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Not that bad once you watch the whole thing.

Author: ( from Phx, AZ
25 April 2000

af·flic·tion- a condition of pain,suffering,or distress.

When James Coburn won an Acedemy award for his role in this film I had not heard of this movie, so out of curiosity I rented it. I will admit it took me 2 efforts to watch it as the first time I fell asleep but once I sat through the whole movie, I was somewhat impressed.

Nick Nolte plays Wade, a small town cop that is plagued with alot of problems, including his own alcoholism and violent temper. He also must learn to live with the demons that haunt him from abuse he sustained from his abusive, alcoholic father, played by James Coburn, who in his old age, is still a monster.

Wade,played by Nick Nolte,is called to investigate a shooting accident that leaves a wealthy hunter dead. Wade soon begins to believe that this was not an accident, but a murder due to the circumstances surrounding it, so he starts to investigate it as a murder.The mayor of the city seems to like getting in the way of his job. In the meantime he is having custody problems with his ex wife. His daughter is a spoiled brat who never wants to spend time with dad, even though he goes out of his way to try and make the visits enjoyable. His girlfriend Margie, played by Sissy Spacek, is a sweet loving girlfriend who stands by her man until she too has had enough. The stress of his job and the fact that his life seems to be crumbling is too much and eventually Wade starts to crack.

What I got from this film is that this is a man who is plagued by many problems, who is just trying to do the right thing. He thinks a murder has taken place and tries to solve it. He is trying to get along with his dad, even though dad is an abusive drunk. And he wants to spend time with his young daughter, who does nothing but whine that she wants to go back home to mom. I started to feel sorry for this man by the end of the film, with all the obstacles he had.

Overall, I was glad I finished this film and give it a 7/10. Great performances by all.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Nolte is film's main strength

Author: Vlad B. from United States
21 January 2000

Paul Shrader, the writer of "Taxi Driver" has yet again explored the psyche of a man driven to violence by his environment. In this wintry "Film Blanc" (nods to the Coen Brothers), the circumstances are completely different: instead of a suffocating, scummy NYC, we have an isolated, miserable town in upstate New Hampshire. The psychodrama of the main character's complex family relationships, especially his father (Coburn, in the most serious role of his career), unfolds slowly and inevitably; by the final minutes, the audience can fully grasp his ravaged soul, almost ready to lash out themselves. Nick Nolte's performance (truly worthy of a best actor Oscar) literally builds the whole project: he stumbles, growls and snaps with the despair and ferocity of a wounded bear. The climax of his sufferings, however, is not fully realized, as the buildup of the film's tension is released too soon. We do not see the vengeful grandeur of the De Niro kind, and thus the picture limps down prematurely. Remarkably, as it is so rare in modern cinema, Affliction sustains the tone of a true Tragedy, offering absolutely no redemption or a single scene that is somehow uplifting.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A disturbing film

Author: ary luiz dalazen jr. ( from Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil
5 October 1999

A sad, slow and hard movie to like: Affliction, the film that gave new force for James Coburn's career and earned him an Academy Award, is a difficult drama. Directed with coldness and distance by Schrader, Affliction is about a problematic sheriff who is scared of become like his old man, a violent and full-of-rage person (Coburn, in a complex part- he does a great job). After a so-called hunt accident, that ended up in the death of a powerful man, Nolte's character decides to seek for the truth as a way in which he may finally find redemption. This is a Schrader film, so don't expect happy endings, but is exactly this aspect that makes Affliction such a vigorous psychological drama.This film is closely to a masterpiece, but the slow rhythm and the lack of basic action and emotion turns this drama into a good, but not excellent, film.

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