Great acting (I've been a fan of Nolte's since I saw 48 Hours when I was about 12) but this has to be one of the most depressing films I've ever watched. While it was a good story, the film was very heavy and quite difficult to sit through. Kudos to the writer/ director Schrader for his unrelenting vision and for making the film the way he wanted. Modern Hollywood would have tacked on a less-bleak ending if Schrader didn't have final cut.
Time Out saysWade Whitehouse (Nolte) has a point to prove. Divorced with an eight-year-old daughter who wants as little to do with him as possible, he's the town cop, but generally considered either an irrelevance or an embarrassment. His drinking is getting worse and he's itching to square things with the old man, a bitter, abusive bully (Coburn). Instead, he latches on to a fatal hunting incident to see if he can't sniff out a murderer. Like The Sweet Hereafter, also based on a Russell Banks novel and also shot by cameraman Paul Sarossy under a cold blanket of snow, Affliction puzzles over an accidental death, seeks to apportion blame, forlornly, only to skid off-track into unrelated sins of the fathers. Nolte is tremendous: poignantly floundering in his attempts to connect with his daughter and frequently flushed with anger, he's painfully aware that he's gotten a raw deal from life, while staying blind to the consolations offered by waitress Spacek. Coburn, meanwhile, snarls savagely and chews up the scenery like a shark; no subtlety here, you can taste the violence in his blood. The heaviness is a little stifling, but not inappropriate - Schrader's American tragedy has a dull finality that is determinedly depressing.