Metascore
79

Generally favorable reviews - based on 35 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 35
  2. Negative: 1 out of 35
  1. 100
    Nolte and Coburn are magnificent in this film, which is like an expiation or amends for abusive men. It is revealing to watch them in their scenes together--to see how they're able to use physical presence to sketch the history of a relationship.
  2. Schrader and Nolte are both at the height of their expressive powers in a film that, in its concentration and sobriety, leaves a lasting impression.
  3. This is a nearly miraculous conjunction of director, material and actor.
  4. 100
    Affliction turns the sound on with sudden, crystalline clarity, and echoes with the haunting power of a suppressed truth that has finally been released.
  5. 100
    In this magnificent, profoundly tragic film, Nolte and Coburn each turn in career-best performances as a father and son who embody the ancient, seemingly ineradicable male pathology of violence, retribution, and the slow death of the soul.
  6. Affliction -- a beautiful bummer, a magnificent feel-bad movie -- is American filmmaking of a most rewarding order.
  7. Searing, intense and unrelenting, Affliction moves to the deepest centers of experience and desire and brings its characters to unflinching life.
  8. Reviewed by: Janet Maslin
    100
    Succeeds in finding something larger than one man's misery. It turns dark truthfulness into the cinematic sentiment most worth celebrating this season.
  9. 90
    Affliction is a harsh experience, but the harshness isn't a matter of punishing the audience or of the director, Schrader, showing off his toughness: That unvarnished harshness is the very essence of the material.
  10. 90
    As chilly a spectacle as you're likely to see. It's like watching a comeback in an empty stadium.
  11. 90
    This is anything but pleasant stuff, but it's a must-see for anyone interested in men and women, fathers and sons, and the kind of murder mystery in which the real casualty is the human soul.
  12. Reviewed by: John Hartl
    90
    Affliction could be their (Nolte, Coburn) finest couple of hours on film; they do seem to be father and son, rather than actors playing these roles.
  13. Reviewed by: Norman Green
    90
    Ranks with the year's scant handful of must-see movies, for the scant handful of moviegoers who revere powerful stories, disturbing, unforgettable characters, plots with the serious sweep of literature, and kickass acting above all else.
  14. 90
    We marvel at the almost perfect realization of a character whom we're not necessarily meant to like.
  15. Rarely have a novelist and filmmaker been better matched.
  16. Never has an actor embodied the passing down of violence and bitterness from father to son more powerfully.
  17. 88
    Violence may provide entertainment value in more crass or commercially minded projects, but in the unflinching world of Affliction, it leads only to the ruination of your soul. [5 February 1999, Friday, p.D]
  18. 88
    Affliction is for anyone willing to take the journey into the heart and soul of a troubled man on the edge.
  19. 80
    Affliction is a work of realist art rich in quotidian detail, a Grimm fairy tale about a community under siege, and a lament for a good man gone bad for nothing.
  20. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    80
    Schrader has never been one to coddle an audience, and this is as uncompromising a vision as he has given us.
  21. Like the bitter cold in which it's set, Affliction bites hard and true.
  22. Nolte gives one of his most fully realized performances, Coburn makes an amazingly powerful comeback, and Schrader's filmmaking has never been more expressive or assured.
  23. Reviewed by: Rod Dreher
    75
    A compelling, at times bone-chilling study of the male character in crisis.
  24. Nolte, reinforced by the bleak discretion of Schrader's direction and a wonderful supporting cast, makes the most of the opportunity.
  25. Schrader seems to understand these characters implicitly, and the result is probably the best film he has directed.
  26. A tormented and tormenting man uses violence to break the historic chain of violence, then bequeaths to his loved ones the most precious gift he can give -- his total silence and perpetual absence.
  27. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    70
    But the actor (Nolte) finds truth in Wade's emotional clumsiness, in the despair of a man who hasn't the tools or the cool to survive. There are too many of these men in life, and not enough films that tell their sad tales.
  28. Nolte and Coburn are so powerful that they distort what, we are told, is the story's theme. [Feb. 1, 1999]
  29. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    63
    James Coburn plays father in what may be the best performance of his career. [30 December 1998, Life, p.3D]
  30. 60
    Caustic and despairing, Shrader's film lacks the delicate beauty of Atom Agoyan's "Sweet Hereafter," but has just as much bitter power.
  31. 60
    Schrader has always been better as a writer and a critic than as a dramatist, which is why his most successful work has either been published in film journals or directed by Martin Scorsese. His flat, awkward staging diminishes some good performances -- particularly those of Nolte and a welcome Sissy Spacek.
  32. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    60
    The pervasive chill, ugly feelings and downward spiral of the narrative make this a work that requires an equally sober, serious-minded attitude on the part of the viewer.
  33. A brave effort to stare down the specter of American failure, it gets off on the wrong foot by pretentiously turning the doomed hero into a Christ figure--a traffic cop with arms extended in crucifixion mode--before the story even gets started.
  34. Reviewed by: Jennifer Nowitzky
    40
    More frustrating, however, are the many side stories, which introduce potential conflicts but never fully form, as well as completely unnecessary voice-overs that come late in the movie and culminate in a final monologue, which tells the audience what to think, rather than allowing us to decide what it's all about for ourselves.
  35. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    30
    An affectless piece of moviemaking.

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