By Brian Costello,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Some violence, sex in uninspired thriller.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
No positive messages in formulaic thriller.
Positive Role Models
Unlike most thrillers, and many movies in general, the lead characters are entirely African-Americans. The protagonist characters are smart, successful, and career and family-driven.
Violence & Scariness
(Warning: Some spoilers.) At the beginning of the movie, a woman enters her bathroom to find her lover dead in the bathtub as running water mixes with blood. Characters are found murdered, some blood. One character falls off of a cliff and dies. A beachcomber finds the charred remains of a dead body. Character is found unconscious and bleeding after getting knocked to the ground. Fighting with knives, logs, punches, kicks, tackles. Movie centered on a stalker who hides in bushes to take pictures of his obsession, as well as her husband and daughter, and also breaks into their house and installs a camera to spy on them. He also steals some of her lingerie.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
At the beginning of the movie, a man and woman are shown having sex, filmed from the back -- no nudity, but there is moaning. Characters have sex in the shower -- again, no nudity. Characters nearly have sex in a nightclub bathroom, kissing passionately and starting to remove their clothes before one of the characters, on the verge of cheating on her husband, puts a stop to it.
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Infrequent profanity includes "goddamn," "s--t," "bitch," "hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Beer and wine drinking. Drinking in a bar leads to intoxication, which results in a lead character making a bad decision that ignites trouble for the rest of the movie.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Fatal Affair is a thriller in which Nia Long plays a successful lawyer who, after a brief encounter with an old friend, finds herself being obsessively stalked by him. While not overly gory, there are some murders and the characters' dead bodies are found with some blood. Early in the movie, two characters shown having sex (no nudity, but with moaning) before one of the characters is found murdered in the bathtub, blood mixing with the running water. There's also a charred body found on the beach. One lead character drinks too much at a nightclub, and goes into the restroom with her romantic interest. They nearly have sex, kissing and removing clothing, before the lead character -- on the verge of cheating on her husband -- puts a stop to it. Characters fight with knives, logs, punches, kicks. Infrequent profanity includes "goddamn," "s--t," "bitch," "hell."
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What's the Story?
In FATAL AFFAIR, Ellie Warren (Nia Long) is a successful San Francisco lawyer on the verge of opening her own practice. At a work meeting, she unexpectedly runs into David (Omar Epps), an old friend from college, who now, 20 years later, half-jokingly says that he makes his living as a "hacker." Feeling dissatisfied with her marriage to Marcus (Stephen Bishop), even as they are moving into a dream home by the ocean, Ellie relents to going out for drinks with David, and she begins to open up about her marital problems. David makes no secret of his attraction, both past and present, to Ellie.
After they nearly have sex in a nightclub bathroom before Ellie stops it, Ellie hopes that David will keep his distance. But the constant texts and chance encounters suggest that David isn't going to give up so easily. When David goes so far as to start dating Ellie's best friend Courtney (Maya Stojan) as a way to continue pursuing Ellie, she realizes she's being stalked. While trying to keep the nightclub indiscretion a secret from Marcus and as David finds new and increasingly creepy ways to terrorize her, Ellie must find a way to stop this once and for all.
Is It Any Good?
While there are the occasional moments of suspense in Fatal Affair, these moments are offset by a trite and uninspired storyline. It basically comes off as one of the seemingly millions of Lifetime Channel movies about stalkers, only with slightly more violence and sex. Some of the moments upon which the plot hinges are a little too convenient, such as the concierge of the apartment building where David lives giving Ellie the key to get into his apartment under a sketchy-at-best pretense. While the slow build of the suspense works at times, the writing never really veers away from the formulaic.
The best moments come from the quality of the acting more than anything else. These moments are between Nia Long and Stephen Bishop as a married couple struggling with mid-life ennui, even as they should be happy with their lives and each other. As the stalker, Omar Epps comes off the right level of restrained creepiness, and in the moments where he almost loses that restraint, like the scene on a golf course with Bishop, are among the best in the movie. Nonetheless, the quality of the acting cannot save the stock story and shopworn writing.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about what makes a thriller. In terms of story, characters, and violence, how are thriller movies similar and different to horror movies?
All the lead characters in the movie are portrayed by African-Americans. Do you think there's enough diversity in Hollywood? How does the diversity landscape today compare to previous decades?
Was the violence necessary to the story, or did it seem gratuitous? Do you think it enhances the narrative or do you find it distracting?
- On DVD or streaming: July 17, 2020
- Cast: Nia Long, Omar Epps, Stephen Bishop
- Director: Peter Sullivan
- Inclusion Information: Black actors
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
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