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Affliction (1999)

Nick Nolte , Sissy Spacek , Paul Schrader  |  R |  DVD
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Nick Nolte, Sissy Spacek, James Coburn, Brigid Tierney, Holmes Osborne
  • Directors: Paul Schrader
  • Writers: Paul Schrader, Russell Banks
  • Producers: Barr B. Potter, Eric Berg, Frank K. Isaac, Josette Perrotta, Linda Reisman
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Letterboxed, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Universal Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: July 6, 1999
  • Run Time: 114 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00000IQVU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #295,264 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Affliction" on IMDb

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Editorial Reviews

Paul Schrader's Affliction, adapted from the novel by Russell Banks (The Sweet Hereafter), charts the slow descent of small-town sheriff Wade Whitehouse (a raspy, gruffly restrained Nick Nolte) into violence, the legacy of the corrupt love of an abusive, alcoholic father. The story ostensibly centers on a hunting death on the outskirts of town, but as Wade digs into what may or not be a conspiracy, his personal life spirals out of control. James Coburn, who deservedly won an Oscar for his mocking, sneering performance, is Wade's father, who jumps back into the cycle of abuse when Wade moves in to care for the aging man. Chronicling the story in distant, dispassionate tones is Willem Dafoe as Wade's younger brother Rolfe, who "escaped" his father's legacy in a world of books. Schrader has made his reputation revealing the scarred psyches of American men trying to reconcile the contradictions of masculine fantasy and social reality, as in his screenplays for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, and in Affliction he creates his most poignant and powerful work. The quiet beauty of the snow-blanketed New Hampshire setting (using Canadian locations) and Schrader's restrained yet intimate cinematic style builds the underlying emotional tensions until they explode in startling close-ups, revealing the repressed fear, rage, and helplessness cracking through Wade's carefully maintained façade. As Rolfe's narration coolly analyzes his brother's affliction, he reveals his own: an emotional remove so complete that he's edited himself out of his family history. The legacy of abuse leaves no one untouched. --Sean Axmaker

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Haunting Film January 3, 2004
By A Customer
I saw this movie several years ago and it has stayed with me ever since. Whenever I think about the truly great films I've seen, and would like to see again, this one always makes the list as great, but I have avoided watching it again because, depending upon your childhood, it is extremely disturbing. Beware anyone who has experienced life with an abusive parent, you will see the fear and despair come to life before your eyes. James Coburn and Nick Nolte portray this type of hellish relationship with stunning realism. I have read reviews from those who, apparently, couldn't really believe that parents and children could have such a relationship. Not so, friends. This is a scathing, searing, film -- with no bullets or exploding cars. You have been warned.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a classic December 19, 2004
This is a truly great movie. What is going to make people either love or hate it is that it is unflinchingly real. This one EXUDES realism. It's for those of us who don't love life and aren't really happy about our present situation. It's for anyone who has ever been humiliated, frustrated and ready to lash out at the miserable world. It's bleak-just like life. Nolte and Coburn have never been and probably never will be better. The writing is superb. There are so many lines that ring true. If your favorite song is "Don't Worry, Be Happy" then you might want to skip this one. For everyone else, I suggest that you savor this classic immediately.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unrelieved bleakness August 30, 2010
By Promise
This is a well made film and I really wanted to like it. Nick Nolte is a favorite and he certainly delivers a powerfull, deeply human performance here. James Coburn is perfect as his truly odious abusive father. Nolte has a way of making his characters sympathetic even when they are doing horrible things. We can see from the opening scene, a Halloween party where he tries to amuse his daughter, that the guy is trying to do the right thing but that he's never going to make it. He has the "affliction" and nothing he does works out.

From this unhappy start things only get worse. That's the problem with the film--there's no contrast between light and dark, tragedy and happiness. No one grows, develops, changes. I'm not saying that every film has to have a happy ending but just watching someone go down and down before your eyes isn't worth watching. Yes, it makes the point---that abusive fathers breed flawed children--but this is hardly news.

Some good actors are wasted. Sissy Spacek didn't seem right for the part. I kept wondering what such a nice girl saw in this train wreck of a guy. Willem Dafoe, who has done a lot of good work, just seems creepy here and his role as the omnipotent teller of the tale doesn't quite work for me.

Nolte's rivetting performance kept me watching. Maybe that was the problem; he's such an innately likable guy that it was too horrible to see his character just go down the tubes. Like the Sissy Spacek character, I wanted to believe in him.

It's visually stunning but that's because most of it is shot in the snow and snow scenes are almost always gorgeous.

I give it three stars just for Nolte's performance. Don't expect to be inspired, uplifted, entertained or to learn anything.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Child Dressed as a Man November 24, 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.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Film, Bad Fathers August 21, 1999
By A Customer
Paul Schrader wrote and directed this engrossing drama of one man's self-destruction. Nick Nolte plays Wade Whitehouse, the small-town sheriff who is simultaneously the employee of the town's leading contractor. Whitehouse is basically an ignorant man, proud and tough on the outside, but still hurting from the abuse he suffered as a child from his father (James Coburn in a superbly vicious performance that won him an Oscar). The film covers the events that occur to Whitehouse during a couple of weeks in late October and November, when his life collapses around him. Nolte gives an excellent performance as the self-destructive man, persuasively playing his need to express himself and the consequences of his inability to do so. When the film centers around his relationships with his ex-wife, daughter, father, and girl-friend (Sissy Spacek, in a nice understated performance), the film scores a bulls-eye; Nolte's inability to communicate and his mounting frustration and anger are almost palpable. When it drifts into a story about the possible murder of a wealthy, mob-connected hunter and Nolte's investigation, the film becomes increasingly incoherent. It's also not helped by the dour presence and voice-over of Willem Dafoe as Nolte's brother, another victim of the family's cycle of violence. The key scene in which Dafoe--supposedly the smart one of the family--spurs on Nolte's paranoia with suggestions that the dead hunter was murdered by Nolte's friend and co-worker is a particular mess, and the final voice-over in which Dafoe laments the cost of the generations of violence needlessly spells out what we've already learned. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, though I was expecting a more traumatic or ...
Not bad, though I was expecting a more traumatic or exciting ending. Nick Nolte's acting was excellent, but it's not his best movie. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Shawn Hemp
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 13 days ago by neishal
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good job
Published 18 days ago by Anthony J Hickey
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant portrayal of a tormented childhood
Nick Nolte slams it again as a drama genius.
Published 1 month ago by Stephanie Jones
3.0 out of 5 stars Movie
I had to view this film for a class I was taking. I was very disappointed in the movie and will likely not view it again.
Published 3 months ago by Victoria J Beach
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Art, Nolte's Best
This movie is a tour de force for Nolte, Coburn and Spacek. It is so dark. The gritty New Hampshire winter is perfect background for their father/son calamity.
Published 4 months ago by Pauli
5.0 out of 5 stars A Triumph for Schrader
I don't understand the bad reviews for this film..unless you account for the fact that anyone who wrote a bad review was expecting some disney-like feel good family film? Read more
Published 4 months ago by Liquid Faith
4.0 out of 5 stars The recurring cycle of domestic abuse...
This film is a heart-breaking piece of poetry, examining the multi-generational effects of domestic abuse and the repetitive cycle of violence. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Josey
2.0 out of 5 stars Too convoluted
This film does not have a clear theme. The story keeps on bouncing from one issue to the next without cohesion. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Ele
4.0 out of 5 stars Darkness on the edge of town
Great dark film. Unfortunately, James Coburn's character reminds me of my own father. One of the best performances of Nick Nolte's career.
Published 5 months ago by Patrick A. Bisaillon
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