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Small-town New Hampshire sheriff Wade Whitehouse (Nick Nolte) struggles to hold his life together after two divorces and a growing rift between himself and his young daughter. But for all of his good intentions, his psyche has been irreparably damaged by his father Glen (James Coburn), a man whose alcoholism and violent outbursts filled his family with insecurity and fear. When Wade investigates the mysterious death of a union leader, which appears to be a hunting accident but could be more, his lack of restraint causes the case to spin beyond his control, and eventually his relationships with his girlfriend Margie (Sissy Spacek), daughter, and ex-wife suffer from his gradual descent into irrational paranoia. Only Wade's even-handed brother Rolfe (Willem Dafoe) is a trusted advisor, but even he eventually fails to prevent the final, inevitable conflict between Wade and his father. Directed and adapted from Russell Banks' novel by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Light Sleeper), Affliction is challenging, rewarding film, if not always an easy one to get through. Schrader's direction effectively captures the snowy New England winter, creating a perfect backdrop for his downcast narrative. Nolte delivers what is likely his best performance here, an utterly convincing portrait of creeping insanity (which is reminiscent of another Schrader screenplay, Raging Bull), and the entire supporting cast is strong, especially Coburn, who remains a bitter, unlikeable bastard until the bitter end — and earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for it. Good transfer, DD 2.0, trailer, textual supplements.

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