by Shaun

In the film Affliction the title is an analogy for it's main character Wade Whitehouse (Nick Nolte in an Oscar caliber performance), he is a man in distress, depravation, lost in life, and looking for a salvation with some very narrow choices. The man that takes us throughout this labyrinth tale is his semi successful brother Rolf (William Dafoe), although he is only in the film for one scene his voice over explains many. Directed by the master of character development Paul Schrader (writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull), he presents to us a powerful film that leaves you with the same hard hitting manipulation that "A Simple Plan" did. The setting of snow is even more proof to my snow climax theory (it makes the environment more conspicuous), the location is a small little town in New Hampshire, where everyone is aquatinted with everyone and agony lies thick within the soul's of some unlucky victims. One such victim is Wade, in the mid 50's, divorced with a kid which he loves, or attempts to love, he is the town officer, yet does the dirties jobs (plowing, traffic control), ridiculed by some town people with stories from his childhood and extremely under appreciated. Much like Billy Bob Thorton's performance in "A Simple Plan" i felt compassion for this man, since he was so kind and warm hearted, but now as he says in a telephone conversation with his brother telling him he needs to let some of his rage set free "I've growled a little but i didn't bit yet", it is time to let loose and let some more of his savage side take Hold, and a savage side he has.

The film opens up with a brief description from Wade's brother telling us it was Halloween We meet his daughter Jill as he takes her to her old school for a little Halloween party, she wants to go trick or treating but the hour has run late and only the hoodlums are out. She asks him if he was ever bad, this makes Wade uncomftorable and he puts on a quirky smile for her retorting with a NO. We get to see Jill's characteristics showing that she is a little spoiled anti social brat whom is unappreciative of this little fiasco her father created and while he goes out for a smoke she finds the nearest pay phone to call her mom so she can go home. When her dad discovers this atrocity and throws a fit she comforts him by saying "don't worry dad I love you."

The flashbacks in this movie are superbly shot in 60 mm film showing us Wades father Glen (James Coburn), he is just a total drunk that hates everything, beats his kids and wife, calling them quitters and candy asses. Wade was the audacious one sticking up for his little brother and being inflicted by that man's pain. His father makes you want to fear all senior citizens with his scratchy voice and menacing smile.

A little plot that you can cope with begins to develop, as one of the officers Jack (Jim True) takes one of the towns respectable men Eva Twamble (Sean MCcale) out hunting, the trip ends up in death and the victim is Twamble. When Wade is called into investigate the accident little conspiracy theory's begin to pop up in his head and he begins to believe that Jack is the perpetrator. Wade begins to disintegrate and goes out of his way to become schizophrenic. He wants to be more appreciated, not to be the under dog anymore, but he always gets his self confidence shattered. For example when he attempts to give a speeding ticket to the son-in-law of Twamble after he was murdered, he is disgraced and gets the ticket thrown back in his face. On top of all these calamities in his life he has to take all of it under the pain of a rotten tooth.

Now back to Wade's Salvation options. There is the opportunity to marry his sweet girlfriend Margie (Sissy Spacek), he can set a law suit against his ex wife in order to get more custody of his daughter, or he can continue with his investigation on Jack until he reaches the truth. Like I said, very limited options.

This unique film has great performances and powerful dialogue, becoming one that will stick with you for a while. It also is anti - Hollywood, if you think the murder of Twamble plays a big role and this turns into a detective movie, you are wrong. This is about character development and contains a denouement ending that will flatter you. Paul Schrader can add another title to his greatest hits.


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