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3.4 out of 5 stars 216 customer reviews

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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

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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:
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • DVD Release Date: July 6, 1999
  • Run Time: 114 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (216 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00000IQVU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,206 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Affliction" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 3, 2004
Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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.
Read more ›
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Format: VHS Tape
Based on a novel by Russell Banks who also wrote "The Sweet Hereafter", and directed by Paul Schrader of "Raging Bull" and "The Mosquito Coast" fame, the winter landscape and cold bleakness of the town sets the tone for this exploration of the dark legacy of what it is to be a man.
Nick Nolte stars in this dark story of a the lone policeman in a small New Hampshire town investigating a hunting accident. He is divorced and trying and to get custody of his young daughter who rejects his fumbling efforts to be nice to her. James Coburn is excellent as Nick Nolte's father, a brutal and angry old man who typifies a sick machismo which has in turn afflicted his son. His acting is extraordinary as is Nolte's although their styles are different. Noltle is subtle; his facial expressions are controlled and typical of a man who has learned to hold in emotion. Coburn's face, on the other hand, is more deeply expressive; his eyebrows move, his mouth hardens, his eyes glare.
This is the kind of dark, brooding movie that I like. For a brief few hours I enter its world and get completely absorbed in the characters in the way I did with "A thousand Acres" or "The Horse Whisperers". Like these films, there are no easy answers and the conclusion does not wrap up in a neat little Hollywood package that is soon forgotten. Recommended.
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Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
"Affliction" portrays the nuanced small moments and the glaringly obvious stabs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in excruciating clarity. The devolution of Nick Nolte's character, Wade, as the son of a verbally and physically abusive father (James Coburn) is rigidly en point.

We are first aghast, to see Wade disappoint his young daughter — and find himself disappointed in his actions. From that point, there is the continuing spiraling downward into drink, upset, and chaos, as Wade loses control over perceptions of his closest friends, his coworkers, his boss, his lover, and possibly even his family members. He's uncertain whom he's become, as his anger and sadness heightens.

Throughout the film, the audience is given clues, as to the truth of the matters — yet we remain substantially unclear as to whether Wade's version of events is correct. Only the brother's voiceover leads the viewer to some sense of true events.

In the end, the sad truth is that Wade has been more burdened than the audience may have suspected. This truth cost him more than he could bear.

And that is, far too often, the truth of PTSD, without aid to resolution.
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