Last year's so-so psycho-thriller In Dreams will hardly go down as Neil Jordan's finest hour, so it's a relief to find him near his best with this exquisite adaptation of Graham Greene's 1951 novel. Vastly superior to the 1955 version with Deborah Kerr and Van Johnson, it's an elegant period weepie that adds subtle shades of romantic fatalism and religious intrigue to an otherwise generic tale of doomed amour.
Wartime romance? Adulterous lovers? Ralph Fiennes? Didn't we cover this three years ago in The English Patient? Jordan's film may lack the epic scope of Anthony Minghella's Oscar winner, but it boasts the same calculated nostalgia and old-fashioned feel. Both movies emanate from richly complex novels, and both offer ample opportunity to admire Ralph's arse.
But while The English Patient was very much a film of two halves (African desert versus verdant Italian countryside; blonde Kristin Scott Thomas and brunette Juliette Binoche), The End Of The Affair seamlessly dovetails past and present in one beautifully evocative whole. As Fiennes climbs a staircase in 1949, the camera cuts to him following Moore up the same stairway five years earlier; and when the estranged couple later have a fight, the next scene has them making up during the Blitz.
This duality continues in the way events are seen from more than one perspective (Hart's diligent gumshoe Parkis dutifully describes Moore's movements, but their relevance only becomes clear when the same events are replayed from Sarah's point of view). And Jordan's screenplay requires concentration and patience from the audience. But you'll find your efforts reap dividends by the tear-jerking climax, which comes complete with a divinely inspired pay-off.
Great performances, intuitive direction and genuinely erotic sex scenes make this one of the best Greene adaptations since The Third Man. But don't confuse Moore's character with the urine-gargling eccentric from Ryan's Daughter...