Canada / 88 minutes / color / Johnson Production Group, Drie Productions, Lifetime Dir: Christie Will Pr: Oliver De Caigny Scr: Christie Will, Alan Donahue Cine: Anthony Metchie Cast: Rachel Hunter, Clayton Chitty, Miranda Frigon, Carter Evancic, Chelan Simmons, Lane Edwards, Loretta Walsh, Christina Jastrzembska, Barbara Wallace, Beverley Elliott, Daniella Evangelista, Bailey Skodje.
An odd offering, this has all the feel of a direct-to-video erotic thriller but lacks the nudity and raunch—hardly surprising in that it was first shown as a Lifetime movie. (My copy had a “fucking” beeped out, although the censors missed a later sigh of “Fuck!”) But almost all of the rest of the attributes are there, from the occasionally amateurish screenplay to the sometimes dodgy acting and the overall sense that this is a production upon which no great wads of money were spent.
And yet I found Her Infidelity oddly appealing, with moments of interest in the mix. This may be a pretty mediocre movie with a plot that doesn’t bear too much analysis, but it’s not entirely witless.
Lily Helms (Hunter) is convinced husband Peter (Edwards), who has to travel a lot on business, is having an affair with the assistant, Jane Hill (uncredited), who’s doing the traveling with him.
So Lily is ripe for the plucking when the new teacher of her young son Ash (Evancic) at the Olive Branch Elementary School, Grayson Kendall (Chitty), shows obvious signs of interest in her—much to the envy of the other moms on the PTA, such as Lily’s realtor best friend Ellie (Frigon).
Grayson is obsessed with masks, and not only incorporates them into his teaching but also, as we discover on the single occasion he manages to lure Lily to a motel, into his lovemaking. What it takes Lily some little while to realize is that he’s also obsessed with the memory of his wife Rose (Evangelista) and daughter Beth (Skodje), who died a few years back of carbon-monoxide poisoning in a dreadful accident in their home.
And now he has a new obsession, Lily, whom he sees some of the time as his lost Rose. (The fact that both women have flower-names seems to be a major part of the attraction he feels for the much older Lily.)
Lily tries to explain to him that that night at the motel was a dreadful mistake and will never be repeated, but he refuses to accept the message, and begins stalking her, prowling around her house, creeping her and generally playing those not-so-clever manipulative games that psychos in B-movies tend to play.
One thing that works really well in the movie is that nobody else around her is prepared to believe for one moment that Grayson is anything other than a great guy. Ash reveres him as a wonderful teacher. Peter bonds with him at once. Ellie is still desperate to bed him. Another PTA mom, the heavily pregnant Courtney Brixton (Simmons), interprets (or claims to interpret) a scene she oversees as a matter of Lily pestering Grayson rather than the other way round. The school principal, Mrs. Jenkins (Jastrzembska), believes Courtney’s version and kicks Lily off the PTA.
In this sense—the way the refusal of family and friends to listen to Lily’s complaints comes near to making her question whether or not she actually exists—the movie becomes rather like an anxiety dream. In fact, there’s a sequence late on in events when Lily, briefly hospitalized, has an experience that proves to be a bad dream (the usual thriller gambit), and at that point I was almost expecting the whole movie to devolve into an it-was-all-just-a-dream copout. Luckily it doesn’t.
I mentioned at the outset that some of the acting’s pretty dubious. The most embarrassing scene is when Grayson sits in on a meeting of the PTA and the assembled moms, single and married alike, make it plain to him with all the subtlety of a concrete overcoat that they’re available. In real life I imagine Grayson would have run for the hills; in the movie he doesn’t seem to notice the crassness of the heavy hints.
That may of course be a matter of the actors doing their best with a lousy piece of scripting, and certainly the screenplay has its own problems. I don’t know of any schools where teachers are as casual as Grayson about whether they’re actually in the classroom with their charges, and who’ll happily hold a conversation with parents in the classroom where the kids are toiling over their collages. Come to that, I can’t think of any pair of illicit lovers stupid enough to discuss their relationship in a school corridor during school hours. School walls have eager little ears, after all.
Then there’s the matter of a murder that Grayson commits apparently for no other reason than to remind us he’s a psycho. At least, I think it’s a murder. It’s hard to be sure, because there’s no follow-up to that strand of the plot—no raising of the alarm, no police sirens, no grim-faced cops, no people wondering where the victim has disappeared to. And, later, when Grayson abducts Ash with the notion of using the boy to lure Lily, he cunningly doesn’t tell Lily where he’s taken him. (Lily deduces the location, though, through one of the most outrageous examples of Band-Aid plotting I can recall.)
And yet, as I say, it’s not all bad. The symbolism of the masks is interesting, although it might have been developed a bit more rigorously. (Does Grayson wear a mask in the motel with Lily so that it won’t be Rose’s husband but someone else making love to this other woman? Is his perception of Lily as Rose—they look nothing alike—in a sense a matter of him thinking he sees through her mask? Is Lily’s abhorrence of masks a product of the fact that she’s really a straight-on, upfront type?)
Lane Edwards, as Peter, offers some redemptively capable acting (although I found it a tad distracting that he kept reminding me of Neil Dudgeon, but with emphatically the wrong accent), and there’s a grand little cameo from Beverley Elliott as Lily’s mom, Sophie.
As the closing credits ran, it occurred to me I could think of many worse ways to spend 88 minutes than watching Her Infidelity. On the other hand, as shown on the Lifetime Channel with all the bloody ads bumping the running time up to a full two hours . . . well, y’know, not so sure ’bout that.