Retro Review: The Human Stain

Anthony Hopkins plays Coleman Silk, a proud and stalwart classics professor who harbors a secret buried within his soul for more than 40 years. Coleman was unable to tell his wife before she passes away. Coleman tries to reveal the secret to author friend Nathan Zuckerman (Gary Sinise) but instead leaves more questions than answers. When Coleman starts an affair with a much younger woman, Faunia Farely (Nicole Kidman), he does all he can to make their relationship work but Faunia’s demons always interrupt their bliss.

As her demons begin to unravel, which include a stalker ex-husband (Ed Harris), into Coleman’s lap we begin to understand and learn more about Coleman’s secret as well. It is a battle of demons and the tortured lives of both Coleman and Faunia.

What are their secrets? Can two time-displaced lovers unite to face their demons together? Or will their demons swallow them whole?

The great thing about “The Human Stain” is how the film slowly reveals the secrets and the demons. I liked how the film pulls us deep into these lost souls and makes us like them. Hopkins tender performance as Coleman is powerful as we begin to see life through his eyes while he harbored his secret. Kidman is dynamite as the tormented on the verge of self destruction Faunia. She brings such depth and sorrow to Faunia that you can see why Coleman is infatuated with her.

There has been a lot of controversy about the casting in this film. There has been some speculation that Kidman was heavily miscast. I disagree because it is who she is and what she does with Faunia that we can see so much inside this woman.

I also never had a problem with the age-gap between Kidman and Hopkins because each of their scenes was meticulously crafted and as the film progressed we understand why they find each other. Each of them harbors a self-mutilating demon and it’s that mutual understanding that makes them a couple.

Probably the biggest controversy of the film was the casting of Hopkins who’s secret is race related. The depiction and characterization showcased in the film embraces the adversity and the confusion the character endures. It is an intelligent and powerful depiction of a bi-racial person.

The reason I think “The Human Stain” should be remembered in my Top 10 is because of how it takes on all these controversies and delivers a wonderful film. The film itself is almost like the characters inside. The characters, the stellar acting, the script, the direction and the film’s layout are all top drawer. I had a couple problems with the film’s finale but there is so much to enjoy and embrace about this film.

This is a solid drama and one of the year’s best.

(4.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer

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