Biased movie review: “Affinity” (2008)
Beware: spoilers ahead.
The story opens with some background story of the two main characters, Margaret Prior (Anna Madeley) and Selina Dawes (Zoe Tapper). Of course, if you want to lower your expectations on how lesbians look like, this movie won’t help.
Margaret, an upper-class woman, embarks on a new endeavor to some new happiness, by becoming a prison “Visitor” at the Millbank Women’s Prison. Yes, the logic escapes me too. There, she comes to meet and learn about one of the inmates, Selina. For some odd reason, she becomes attracted to her too. And thus, the title “Affinity”.
Unbeknownst to Margaret, she is being played by Selina like a banjo. This ultimately leads Margaret to becomes so desperate and in such great despair that she does not see any other way out other than by enveloping herself in water. “Give a little, and they will take all,” according to Miss Haxby. Such foreshadowing!
I will say, having watched “Tipping the velvet” and “Fingersmith”, I was kind of disappointed with “Affinity”. I love the other two storylines — different, fresh. “Affinity”, however, is rather …what’s-the-word… unexciting or wearisome. Perhaps the burden of death and restless camera work throughout the story are a bit unsuited for me.
It shouldn’t be confused with the fine performances of the actors, the set, the wardrobe and the score, which I think are awesome. It is a beautifully made movie. The attention to detail is amazing. The dark atmosphere of the movie goes well with the dark theme — deceit, ill-omen and premonition of death, among other things. It feels almost like watching a noir film. Light is well-arranged and applied to suit the story-telling to great effect. Background music/score is quiet and not overbearing/overwhelming for the most part. It translates the emotions of the scenes very well.
The story deals with many social and emotional issues — in no particular order: shadows and secrets, innocence and guilt, gender rules and societal expectations, passion and obsession, sexual tension, female rebellion, clairvoyance, death and the dead, salvation, happiness and the use of chloral to calm the nerves. Also, it being a Sarah Waters’, the twists in the story is inevitable and most unexpected.
Margaret‘s depression due to rejection of her former lover (who decided to marry her brother), her father’s death and pressure to marry from so many people actually drive her to immerse herself in work. She’s misunderstood and misjudged. We only learn of her attraction to the fairer sex a-third into the film. That is a big issue on its own, especially in those days. She wears dark-coloured gowns when she ventures outside for the most part, an external display of her emotions.While intelligent and educated, her desperation for love, passion and connection has made her so gullible and vulnerable, and has led her to make many unfortunate choices. She is right to be skeptical of Selina‘s story, but as the story unfolds, scheming people have made her a believer.
When she learns the truth about Selina, her heart is broken and you (the audience) feels that pain too. At one point she’s happy with the supposed impending happiness that lies ahead, and then suddenly, it’s shattered in a blink of an eye. Anna Madeley’s performance is awesome!
The words “You are like me” by Selina is the spell that binds her. And Selina knows it and uses it to her advantage. It does seem like Selina is the one pulling the strings, but alas, we learn later that she is also more-or- less a puppet in this story.
Overall, I would recommend “Affinity” if you’re looking for a story with elements of mystery and suspense. The pace is good — it doesn’t drag on and on unnecessarily. It’s as serious as Death Star but can keep you glued to the screen — intriguing and irrational, which still doesn’t make sense in the film’s denouement. But that’s probably just me!
Will I watch the film again? Highly unlikely. But come on, aren’t Anna Madeley and Zoe Tapper good enough reason to watch the film? 😉