A wartime affair between an African-American soldier and a married Englishwoman has dire consequences in this drama inspired by true events. THE AFFAIR was originally broadcast on HBO, and later released to home video.
In 1944, the US military was still racially segregated. PFC Travis Holloway (Courtney B. Vance) is a soldier in an all-black unit that has been shipped to England to train in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. He befriends and then becomes romantically involved with Maggie Leyland (Kerry
Fox). She's married; her husband, Edward (Ciaran Hinds), is an officer in the British Navy, but the union has been troubled since he had an affair. Travis and Maggie are careful to be very discreet, but his best friend Barrett (Leland Gantt) is discovered when he has a sexual fling with Esther
(Beatie Edney), Maggie's friend and the town trollop, and Barrett is brutally beaten by white soldiers for it.
Edward comes home on leave and catches his wife with Travis, who is arrested and charged with rape. Under duress, Maggie testifies against her lover, believing he will only receive light punishment. The sentence is death by hanging, and when she learns of this, Maggie recants to Travis' commanding
officer, Colonel Banning (Ned Beatty). D-Day will be soon, and Banning doesn't like Negroes anyway--especially not those with the temerity to sully white women--so he does nothing. Maggie is later informed by post of "her attacker's" execution.
In an epilogue scene set 50 years hence, Maggie meets with Barrett and professes that her love for Travis never died or diminished, just as he declared his devotion to her at the gallows. This is a testament to the depth of their romance, but the passion they felt is never effectively conveyed.
Vance and Fox play the lovers as noble works of marble, never as lustful beings of flesh. Perhaps a burnished example of British restraint, or American trepidation at depicting inter-racial sexual relations, the affair is nonetheless a very tepid one and comes off as mostly a distraction from the
movie's greater themes.
What's most interesting about THE AFFAIR is its frank portrayal of the racist abuse suffered by the black troops, and the irony of their going to Europe to fight for democracy when they are denied liberty in the United States. (This issue was also handled in another 1996 made-for-HBO feature, THE
TUSKEGEE AIRMEN.) Holloway says he's willing and eager to fight because he optimistically believes once blacks prove themselves in battle, they will have to be accepted as "real" Americans. He, of course, underestimated the depth of white hatred and hypocrisy (and paid the price for it), as
African-Americans would have to fight dearly at home for their rights. Race continues to be the most divisive issue facing American society, and a movie like THE AFFAIR is a document both of how far we've come and how much further we have to go. (Profanity, violence, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: R
- Review: A wartime affair between an African-American soldier and a married Englishwoman has dire consequences in this drama inspired by true events. THE AFFAIR was originally broadcast on HBO, and later released to home video. In 1944, the US military was still r… (more)