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Affliction (1997)



Average Rating: 7.7/10
Reviews Counted: 47
Fresh: 41 | Rotten: 6

Dark and bleak, the "kick-ass" performances, especially Nolte's "effective" portrayal of an abused soul, is the reason to see this film.


Average Rating: 8.8/10
Critic Reviews: 9
Fresh: 9 | Rotten: 0

Dark and bleak, the "kick-ass" performances, especially Nolte's "effective" portrayal of an abused soul, is the reason to see this film.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 5,314

My Rating

Movie Info

Wade is a police officer in the country and his divorce seldom permits him to spend time with his daughter of whom his ex-wife has custody. He is in love with a fantastic woman with whom he lives. Wade wants to have a family, but a strange accident will change his life forever.


Mystery & Suspense, Drama

Jul 3, 1999

Lions Gate

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All Critics (72) | Top Critics (17) | Fresh (41) | Rotten (6) | DVD (9)

Nolte could have based his oddly sympathetic performance on the image of a sick animal scrounging for food and shelter along deserted country roads.

August 21, 2009 Full Review Source: City Pages, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Schrader has skillfully turned Banks' novel into a compelling character study.

January 11, 2007 Full Review Source: Murphy's Movie Reviews
Murphy's Movie Reviews

Well acted by Nolte and Coburn, Schrader's strongest film in years is a powerful reverie on family curse, how incontrollable anger, drinking, and violence almost inevitably pass on from one generation to the next.

June 12, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Affliction is a shattering film, a dose of bracing naturalism based on Russell Banks' most lacerating novel.

January 8, 2005 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

One wonders why Dafoe is even in the movie. But Nolte is, and that's what enriches Schrader's bleak drama.

July 7, 2004 Full Review Source: Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)

A terrifying movie that faces the truth of cruelty and its everlasting results.

January 17, 2003 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Despite some great performances, Affliction never really takes off.

September 25, 2002 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

The heart of Affliction is Nick Nolte's searing performance.

August 30, 2002 Full Review
Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, IL)

Chilly, despite some remarkable components

June 13, 2002 Full Review Source: Matinee Magazine
Matinee Magazine

Rarely has the dynamics of family violence been portrayed on the screen with such grim and palpable power.

March 3, 2002 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

Overwrought metaphors abound in Paul Schrader's ham-fisted Affliction.

August 17, 2001 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

a powerful, bleak family drama about a son's tragic inability to not become his father

February 27, 2001 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

If you want a personal, compelling tale with a touch of intrigue, let Affliction haunt you for a couple of hours.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Nitrate Online
Nitrate Online

Living in a small New England town myself, I can attest to how uncannily realistic the town and the people in it appeared to be.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Schrader has made his reputation revealing the scarred psyches of American men.... In "Affliction" he creates his most poignant and powerful work.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Seattle Weekly
Seattle Weekly

A terrible waste of a cast, script, and my time.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: | Comment (1)

af.flic.tion \a'flik-shen\ n 1 : the state of being afflicted 2 a : the cause of persistent pain or distress b : great suffering

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source:

The powerful performances by Nolte and Coburn make the film well worth a look, even if they are part of a less-than-developed whole.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source:

Such an angry and bitter motion picture that you can almost physically feel the emotional coldness that is brewing under the surface.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source:

Affliction is one of Paul Schrader's most subtle and confident films, and damn hard to shake off.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

Audience Reviews for Affliction

The plot sounded interesting and it did begin rightly so. However, it failed to maintain that level of interest as it congresses. The story is messed up & lacks thrill. If only critical acclaims could make up for a disappointing experience!!! On the greener side, it's much better than some recent experiences. Good if it works for you. Give it a go.
March 12, 2012

Super Reviewer

Domestic violence is disturbing, indeed! Especially when the head of the family, like a husband or a father turns out to be an abusive alcoholic who flies off the handle every once in a while and turns violent at the slightest of provocation! It is unimaginable what impact that might have on young minds, children of the person in do the people at the receiving end of this affliction turn out?

Screenwriter/Director Paul Schrader's surprisingly less known 1997 film "Affliction" touches upon a situation like this and chronicles the happenings in the life of one such "victim" as a seemingly unrelated incident in the small town he resides in ultimately results in a personal crisis of sorts for him.

Rolfe Whitehouse's (Willem Dafoe) voiceover narration chronicles the events (from his own perspective) leading up to the disappearance of his older brother Wade Whitehouse (Nick Nolte). Wade is a police officer and part time security in-charge in a quiet little town. However, he seems to have troubles of his own..he is preparing to fight for the custody of his daughter Jill who's currently with his ex-wife. He is also haunted by the memories of his traumatic childhood in the shadow of his abusive, perpetually drunk father Glen (James Coburn). He also feels for his mother who has had to suffer for years living with a man like that. His younger brother, Rolfe, on the other hand has managed to escape that world and move out, become a successful teacher in Boston University and live a good life.


Life seems to be decent enough for Wade, with his good friend and newfound romantic interest, Margie Fogg (Sissy Spacek) who works at a local diner. Unbeknownst to him, though, some of his father's violent streak seems to have rubbed off on Wade...which doesn't manifest until much later after a hunting accident. Wade suspects that the hunting "accident" which took the life of a rich man by the name of Twombley, is actually murder, with some of his friends and colleagues involved in it. The incident is quickly followed by Wade's mother's demise which puts his father's responsibility on him, adding to his woes, as Glen seems to show no signs of improvement with age, and makes life difficult for him as well as Margie. Wade finds himself struggling to stay afloat, trying to keep his job, stay in the good books of his daughter Jill, retain Margie's affection, and somehow keep his father at bay.....but how much can one handle?!


"Affliction" is, on one hand, a murder mystery and on the other, a profound character sketch detailing the difficult Glen Whitehouse and his son Wade who seems to be coming dangerously close to treading his father's ugly footsteps. The driving force of "Affliction" is some deftly crafted moments that manage to disturb you as you are left with no choice but to try and fathom how men could resort to such terrible behavior and what makes them so difficult to handle. None of the episodes come across as forced or unrealistic, at that, as these are the traits of real people. One can't deny the existence of such traits in individuals belonging to perfectly normal families. Why does Glen drink so much? How does Glen feel absolutely no remorse after hitting women and children and relentlessly spewing abuses? And what makes the ones at the receiving end so tolerant? There are some highly intense moments in this bleak picture that make for some great drama, like the brawl during Wade's mom's funeral or Wade's outburst when he suspects his friends/colleagues being involved in the "accident" of Twombley. The intensity clubbed with some powerhouse performances make for a great viewing.


While James Coburn bagged the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his remarkable act as the grumpy old irritable father, Nick Nolte emerges a clear winner with his Oscar nominated, volatile performance as Wade, who is doing his best in his attempts at not being like his father and trying hold together his life that is steadily unraveling. It is a performance to watch out for, although one can't deny that there were times when he seemed to be a tad Jack Nicholson-ish in his acting! That in no way takes any credibility out though, as your heart goes out to the hapless Wade, who's clearly a victim of circumstance!

Others like Willem Dafoe, Holmes Osborne and Sissy Spacek appear very briefly. Dafoe's voice appears more than his physical presence itself, which is a pity, but maybe the screenplay demanded Nolte's character's presence much more than anyone else's!

Paul Schrader, a name not unknown to fans of Martin Scorsese classics such as "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull", pens a powerful screenplay based on the novel by Russell Banks and directs the same with the finesse of a master, although Paul Schrader, the director, seems to be under-recognized amongst film lovers.

Do check out "Affliction". It is a fine work of cinema that certainly is essential viewing for film lovers who like their dramas laden with intensity.

Score: 8.5/10
August 3, 2011
Aditya Gokhale
Aditya Gokhale

Super Reviewer

When you dig into Affliction you feel like you're getting into a low rent Fargo. A man accidentally dies on a hunting expedition and bumpkin cop Wade Whitehouse (Nick Nolte) soon suspects foul play involving his friend, his boss, and the dead mans son in law.

Affliction is much more than that. The crime is just the MacGuffin to lead us to the real meat of the film which is Wade's downward spiral. Wade is divorced and his daughter will have nothing to do with him. He tries hard to have a relationship, sometimes too hard, but the spirit of his father is still etched into him and continues to carve away little pieces of his life. Wade's father Glen (James Coburn in an Oscar winning role) is your typical drunk and abusive father. You've seen it in several other movies. It's Coburn that makes the character more than that. His drunk isn't loud and brash all the time. He simmers. He knows what to say to get a rise. He's evil, yet he's the patriarch.

Along with Nolte and Coburn you have Sissy Spacek as Wade's fiance and Willem Dafoe playing the other, more down to earth son who's almost too down to earth. he narrates the tale. It's a great cast of talented actors.

Paul Schrader, best known for writing Scorsese's classic films Taxi driver, raging Bull, and The Last Temptation of Christ directs and adapts the novel by Russell Banks. When you get right down to it Wade Whithouse could be Travis Bickle if he stayed at home and got small municipal jobs in his podunk hometown. Schrader isn't crazy with the camera, but he's still able to show that even though they hate each other father and son still hold a bond between one another. This film is probably Schrader's best work as a director.

Affliction could have easily been a Lifetime movie, but Scharader and his cast of actor turn it into a tour de force that represents the best of their talents. A little dull at a few points it is still a fine film and necessary when seeing how to cap off a great career.
February 22, 2009

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