Entertainment » Movies

Affinity

by Padraic Maroney
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jul 15, 2008
Anna Madeley lets the spirits move her in "Affinity."
Anna Madeley lets the spirits move her in "Affinity."  

When it comes to having a twist in a supernatural thriller, audiences today have been spoiled by M. Night Shyamalan. We have been become jaded and cynical about what should happen and how. The new film Affinity is one of those films that might have been better viewed had it come out in a world before "The Sixth Sense." Alas, it didn't.

The genre of supernatural thrillers and Victorian era England don't tend to automatically co-exist in people's minds. Yet that is exactly when "Affinity," based on the novel by Sarah Waters, takes place. In it, Margaret (Anna Madeley of "In Bruges") is in mourning, not only suffering from the recent loss of her father, but also the loss of her lover who has decided to go ahead and marry Margaret's brother. To keep herself busy, the 19th century socialite begins to volunteer at the nearby women's prison.

Once there she becomes intrigued by a prisoner, Selina, who is reclusive and imprisoned for a crime involving her being visited by spirits. Her curiosity registers with prison higher-ups, and soon, that interest turns into infatuation as Margaret digs deeper into Selina's past. In no time, the two women talking about escaping to Italy so they can be together.

Director Tim Fywell and writer Andrew Davies are smart with the way they handle the supernatural elements of the movie. Selina's story is told mostly through flashbacks that give just enough of an idea of what happened, while not giving the full story. Fywell especially is clever when it comes to keeping the flashbacks and the never-fully-seen spirit known as Peter Quick mysterious.

Where they stumble, though, is the pacing. The beginning of the film drags on to feel almost like our own prison sentence punishment. It is not until the two women's relationship finally begins to blossom that the adaptation hits its stride. Adding intrigue of the mystery to the already simmering film is trying to figure out what exactly happened that put Selina in jail. The seemingly innocent girl doesn't seem capable of hurting a fly, so did the spirit of Peter Quick really get her sent away? Being able to strike that equal blend as to be sure not to fall into neither a women in prison film nor a turn of the century spooky film is important.

As Selina, Zoe Tapper ("Mrs. Palfrey At The Claremont") has the difficult position of trying to get Margaret -- and the audience -- to sympathize with her while still staying mysterious. Tapper is so controlled in her expressions and emotions that she is mesmerizing to watch. The ying to Tapper's yang is Madeley as Margaret. Madeley has about two expressions and tries to use each even when they don't exactly fit the emotion that should be conveyed.

In the final act, the film falls almost completely apart. The twist that comes is one that is definitely not easily guessed, but in having that twist much of the story becomes null and void. Seemingly minute details, like the fact that Selina never had any visitors, suddenly come into question. Much in the same way "The Sixth Sense" made everyone go back and examine the facts, "Affinity" will prompt viewers do the same, except here, the facts won't be as airtight as Shyamalan's classic.

"Affinity" is a film that presents a difficult predicament for audiences. Despite its faults, there is something that makes you want to like the film. But most of it is slow, almost to the point of boring. Once it begins to pick up steam it is hampered by an ending that casts a shadow on everything. All things considered, it might be better to refer to the film as "Aversion."

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