I haven’t done a movie review in awhile and Netflix’s Fatal Affair seemed like the perfect film to get me back in the groove.
When I saw the trailer, it seemed like the film was going for an erotic thriller vibe, but didn’t have the budget to fully execute that vision. But they had me at Nia Long and Omar Epps. I’m always going to support two Black legends.
The first scene of the movie is incredibly predictable and failed to create the desired suspense. We meet Ellie, Nia Long’s character, in her car, driving to the home she and her husband have just moved into. She’s on the phone and we learn she’s a lawyer when she says, “The opposing counsel said what?” Now, to you, this sentence may seem completely innocuous, but as an attorney myself, it sounded awkward to my ear. In real life, you’d likely say, “Opposing counsel said what?” or “She/he said what?” To me, the line sounds like someone trying to sound like he knows what he’s talking about when he doesn’t. There was nothing in the script the writers couldn’t have picked up from an episode of Suits. Actually, I’ve never seen Suits but I bet it’ll teach you more about the law than this movie. I wonder if the writers even consulted with an attorney on the script.
The clichés keep coming when Ellie tells David, Omar Epps’s character, over wine that after twenty years, one day she woke up and the person lying next to her felt “like a complete stranger.” Come on! How many times have we heard this line before?! We get it: when you’re married for a long time, people can drift apart. But can we come up with another way to describe it?!
David responds with, “Twenty years is a long time, but I’m pretty sure he’s still attracted to you.” Ellie didn’t say her and her husband’s sexual chemistry was off, she said she feels like she doesn’t know him any more. It’s stereotypical (I’m running out of synonyms for predictable) that David would make Ellie’s statement about attraction. Nia Long and Omar Epps deserve so much better than this writing.
So that bathroom scene at the bar. As I said, Nia and Omar are legends, but they have less chemistry than Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes. Also, Girl, you were about to fuck him without a condom?! When you’re whole-ass married to a gorgeous Black architect?? Nah, Girl. That’s not the move.
In the scene between David and his therapist, his delusional view of the world first becomes apparent. He says he and Ellie are dating which they aren’t. I wish this scene were longer and explored David’s delusional state more. The thing about these Fatal Attraction-type movies is the character with the obsession always seems to have some kind of mental illness, but this aspect of the character is never fleshed out. Towards the end of the movie, a throwaway line reveals David’s been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, but there’s no discussion of what that entails which was a missed opportunity.
I wouldn’t say Nia Long and KJ Smith, the actress who plays David’s ex-wife Deborah, look “just” alike. We don’t all look the same, Karen.
I get that David grabbing Courtney’s neck during their love scene is supposed to convey that he’s dangerous and the audience should be afraid of him. But here’s the thing: I wasn’t afraid, I thought he was being a jerk. You need to ask before you grab someone around the neck like that. You never know what trauma someone has experienced and doing that without permission can be really triggering and traumatizing for someone.
And while we’re on Courtney, it is RIDICULOUS that she believed David over Ellie! This woman is your friend, you’ve known this man for five minutes, yet you deem him more trustworthy?! Nah. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen in real life, but Courtney is a thirty-something lawyer. She knows how to deduce and reason. She knows better than this and portraying her in this manner is sexist and disrespectful.
Also, what was even the point of the Courtney character? She doesn’t advance the story in any meaningful way and she makes ridiculous choices. I can’t help but think Peter Sullivan wanted a part for a white actress in a film with two Black leads.
Later in the film, the writers ask the audience to take our suspension of disbelief to new heights. There’s no way in hell that concierge lady would’ve just given Ellie the key to David’s apartment like that. There is ZERO CHANCE someone that works in tech would have that simple of a password! It makes sense the password is her name, but he probably would have used something like E1li3_Br0ok$, not just her name written plainly.
Also, HIS PHONE WOULD NEVER BE UNLOCKED! I don’t know anyone who keeps their phone unlocked, let alone someone in tech. Seriously, does Tyler Perry write under the alias Peter Sullivan or Rasheeda Garner???! Nia Long produced this, but I wonder how much say she had over decisions like this.
Also, so David killed his ex-wife, her white boyfriend, Linda (Ellie’s assistant) and Brittany’s boyfriend, but left Courtney, the white woman, alive?!! Whiteness always protects white womanhood, never forget that.
The fight scene at the end of the movie was the most interesting part of it and even that didn’t make sense! Why would Ellie pick up a log to hit David when there was a gun right there?! It’s not like the writers of the film wanted him to live, he fell off a cliff and died!
TL;DR: this film is rife with clichés and interspersed with sexism. Given a skilled director and writer, Omar Epps could’ve played a scarier, more complicated narcissist. It is astoundingly unsexy for an erotic thriller. The film is watchable, but not necessarily that entertaining. Nia Long and Omar Epps deserve better and your support, so if you start to get bored, just let the film play while you’re cleaning or something. 🤣