Generally favorable reviews - based on 35 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 35
  2. Negative: 1 out of 35

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Critic Reviews

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. This is a nearly miraculous conjunction of director, material and actor.
  4. Baltimore Sun
    Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    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. 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.
  6. Portland Oregonian
    Reviewed by: Diana Abu-Jaber
    Searing, intense and unrelenting, Affliction moves to the deepest centers of experience and desire and brings its characters to unflinching life.
  7. Affliction -- a beautiful bummer, a magnificent feel-bad movie -- is American filmmaking of a most rewarding order.
  8. 100
    Succeeds in finding something larger than one man's misery. It turns dark truthfulness into the cinematic sentiment most worth celebrating this season.
    Reviewed by: John Hartl
    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.
    Reviewed by: Norman Green
    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.
  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. Never has an actor embodied the passing down of violence and bitterness from father to son more powerfully.
  13. 90
    As chilly a spectacle as you're likely to see. It's like watching a comeback in an empty stadium.
    Reviewed by: Peter Brunette
    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. 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.
  17. 88
    Affliction is for anyone willing to take the journey into the heart and soul of a troubled man on the edge.
  18. Chicago Tribune
    Reviewed by: Mark Caro
    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]
  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
    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. Philadelphia Inquirer
    Reviewed by: Desmond Ryan
    Nolte, reinforced by the bleak discretion of Schrader's direction and a wonderful supporting cast, makes the most of the opportunity.
  23. 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.
  24. Schrader seems to understand these characters implicitly, and the result is probably the best film he has directed.
  25. New York Post
    Reviewed by: Rod Dreher
    A compelling, at times bone-chilling study of the male character in crisis.
  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. The New Republic
    Reviewed by: Stanley Kauffmann
    Nolte and Coburn are so powerful that they distort what, we are told, is the story's theme. [Feb. 1, 1999]
  28. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    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.
  29. USA Today
    Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    James Coburn plays father in what may be the best performance of his career. [30 December 1998, Life, p.3D]

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