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Affliction (Shout! Studios) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Affliction (Shout! Studios) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Shout! Studios
    Released on: April 16th, 2024.
    Director: Paul Schrader
    Cast: Nick Nolte, James Coburn, Sissy Spacek, Willem Defoe
    Year: 1997
    Purchase From Amazon

    Affliction – Movie Review:

    Directed by Paul Schrader, who wrote the script based on the novel of the same name by Russell Banks, 1997's Affliction is narrated by a man named Rolfe Whitehouse (Willem Dafoe) as he tells the story of his brother, Wade (Nick Nolte), who works as a police officer in a small town in New Hampshire. Wade is divorced but has a daughter with his ex-wife (Mary Beth Hurt) - and his daughter seems consistently terrified of him. He drinks a lot and smokes even more. Wade is broken.

    Wade, since the divorce, has been dating a woman named Margie (Sissy Spacek), but their relationship is consistently troubled as Wade just can't seem to make that human connection that relationships need to thrive. When a local is killed in what seems to be a hunting accident, he's tasked with investigating the killing, and it very quickly has a negative effect on him.

    As this story plays out, we see through a series of flashbacks what his family life and upbringing was like. His father, Glen (James Coburn), was an abusive alcoholic who regularly beat Wade's mother and children emotionally and physically. As the story of the investigation continues alongside the flashbacks, the movie weaves the two storylines together. But what about Rolfe? He left New Hampshire, got himself an education and teaches at a Boston university, but as the story draws to its close it's clear that he, too, has very serious issues stemming back to Glen's abuse and things inevitably come to a very dark conclusion. There’s more to the story than this, but those are best left undiscussed in this review so as to avoid spoilers.

    Clearly based on the idea that the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children, Affliction is populated by broken people. The cycle of abuse that started with Glen clearly shaped his sons and Glen’s actions are clearly shaping his daughter. There are no healthy relationships in this movie, though Margie does her damnedest to get Wade to connect with her. The end result is a very dark film, but also a very well-made one, filled with truly excellent performances and, sadly, very believable characters.

    The performances in this movie, which is difficult to enjoy while simultaneously almost impossible not to at least appreciate, are superb. James Coburn is so damn good in this that you wind up absolutely hating his character, which is absolutely intentional on Schrader’s part and a testament to how strong the actor’s work is in the film. Nick Nolte is every bit as good, a shambling, mess of a man permanently damaged by his father and coming dangerously close to repeating so many of the elder Whitehouse’s mistakes. Sissy Spacek is also great, crafting a very sympathetic and conflicted character while Dafoe, who gets a lot less screen time here, also does very fine work.

    Visually the film is fine. It isn’t flashy but it shouldn’t be flashy. The cinematography from Paul Sarossy is good, highlighting character reactions from interesting angles and allowing the desolate winter setting to reflect the tone of the story, while Michael Brook’s score accentuates the drama very effectively.

    Affliction – Blu-ray Review:

    Affliction arrives on a 50GB Blu-ray from Shout! Studios presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen taken from a new 2k scan of unspecified elements. The movie looks okay, but not amazing. There’s some minor damage visible here and there but nothing too distracting. The flashback scenes are grittier and grainier than the ‘current’ footage in the movie, but that’s obviously an intention choice. Detail rises above what standard definition could provide to be sure, but this isn’t going to be home theater demo material for most people as the movie was shot in a fairly flat style. Compression artifacts, edge enhancement and noise reduction are never problematic, skin tones look okay and black levels are decent.

    Audio options are provided in 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo Master Audio, both tracks in English. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. There isn’t a huge difference between the two tracks but the 5.1 mix does spread things out rather effectively into the rear channels when the movie calls for it. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion to complain about.

    Extras are limited to a trailer for the feature, static menus and chapter selection options.

    Affliction - The Final Word:

    Affliction is a genuinely stirring drama made all the more compelling by Schrader’s willingness to take the story into some uncomfortably dark places and some truly excellent performances. The Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory looks decent but never great and it is pretty light on the extras given the price tag attached to it, but this is very much a movie worth seeing and at the time of this writing, this is the best way to do that.



    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Affliction screen caps!

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