An affair between a cabana boy and the young wife of a sinister politician triggers a 16-year vendetta between the two men.
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Rolfe's narration reveals that Wade eventually murdered Jack and left town (possibly to Canada, where Jack's truck was found three days later), never to return. Rolfe relates that the town later became part of a huge ski resort partly organized by Gordon Lariviere. He concludes that someday a vagrant resembling Wade might be found frozen to death, and that will be the end of the story.
Affliction movie image featuring Nick Nolte, James Coburn, Willem Dafoe and Sissy Spacek: Lionsgate Films, via Passion for Movies.
The film begins with a voice-over narration by Rolfe Whitehouse, announcing the story of his brother Wade's "strange criminal behavior" and subsequent disappearance.
 The 1998 Affliction – actually first seen in festivals in 1997 – is totally unrelated to Derek Lee and Clif Prowse's 2013 Canadian horror drama Afflicted.
Affliction tells the story of Wade Whitehouse, a small-town policeman in New Hampshire. Detached from the people around him, including a dominating father and a divorced wife, he becomes obsessed with the solving of a fatal hunting accident, leading to a series of tragic events.
effrayante descente aux enfers pour un homme à qui rien ne réussi dans la vie
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Based on a novel by Russell Banks (who also penned the equally snowy The Sweet Hereafter), Schrader's Affliction relies on a realistic wintry atmosphere (courtesy of cinematographer Paul Sarossy) to convey the deadness inside the story's protagonist, the middle-aged, small-town sheriff Wade Whitehouse (Nick Nolte). The angst-ridden Wade is intent on not ending up like his abusive, alcoholic father, Glen (James Coburn), while inexorably sliding down that very path.
When the massive, vicious-looking Coburn barks at Nick Nolte, “Don't you sass me!” he isn't kidding. This viewer only wishes Big Daddy had also sent a clear warning to Willem Dafoe, who sasses the voice-over narration, leaving a sour taste at the final – and absurd – fade-out.
Nick Nolte is a big, shambling, confident male presence in the movies, and it is startling to see his cocksure presence change into fear in Paul Schrader's "Affliction.'' Nolte plays Wade Whitehouse, the sheriff of a small New Hampshire town, whose uniform, gun and stature do not make up for a deep feeling of worthlessness. He drinks, he smokes pot on the job, he walks with a sad weariness, he is hated by his ex-wife, and his young daughter looks at him as if he's crazy.
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One wonders why Dafoe is even in the movie. But Nolte is, and that's what enriches Schrader's bleak drama.
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Critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 4 stars. Janet Maslin, in The New York Times, said "[Nick Nolte] gives the performance of his career in Paul Schrader's quietly stunning new film […] Like The Sweet Hereafter, a more meditative and elegant but less immediate, volcanic film, Affliction finds the deeper meaning in an all too believable tragedy."
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L'ambiance lourde et sombre de cette bourgade enneigée révèle un excellent Nolte interprétant un personnage bien torturé... Lire la suite
There is a story about that. "I met with Coburn before the picture began,'' Schrader told me, "and told him how carefully Nolte prepares for a role. I told Coburn that if he walked through the movie, Nolte might let him get away with it for a day, but on the second day all hell would break lose. Coburn said, 'Oh, you mean you want me to really act? I can do that. I haven't often been asked to, but I can.' '' He can.
Wade Whitehouse is a small-town policeman in New Hampshire. On Halloween night, Wade meets his daughter Jill from his divorced marriage, but he is late and the evening is overshadowed by disharmony. Jill eventually calls her mother to come and pick her up. When his ex-wife finally arrives, Wade shoves her lover against their car and watches them drive away with Jill. Wade vows to get a lawyer to help gain custody of his daughter.
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A small town sheriff investigates the murder of a wealthy business man, an investigation that threatens his personal and professional life.
Schrader has skillfully turned Banks' novel into a compelling character study.
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Best Actor Academy Award nominee Nick Nolte is another problem. As in Barbra Streisand's 1991 soap opera The Prince of Tides, he delivers an overwrought performance that is supposed to underline Wade's mental instability, but that has the exact opposite effect. Instead of making this viewer focus on the character, Nolte kept reminding me that I was watching a dedicated actor doing his utmost to tackle a difficult role.
The film received mostly positive reviews with an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Un film très dur qui reflète parfaitement les résultats de la maltraitance physique et psychologique sur les enfants. Un Nick Nolte au top dans un rôle de "gueule cassée".
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On the positive side, in addition to the all-around excellent production values and Michael Brook's haunting music, Affliction features several supporting players in top form, especially Mary Beth Hurt, as Wade's unbending ex-wife; Sissy Spacek, in a smallish role as the unstable hero's long-suffering girlfriend; and Best Supporting Actor Oscar-winning veteran James Coburn (The President's Analyst, In Like Flint), as the abusive father who has scarred his older son for all eternity.
Affliction was filmed in Quebec, with principal shooting ending in February 1997. Although first presented at the Venice Film Festival on August 28 the same year, Affliction did not see a theatrical release until some time later in most countries. After a limited release in New York in December 1998, it saw its regular US release in January 1999.