Janine Turner in A Secret Affair (1999)

From Venice with Love

So to give this movie its complete title "Barbara Taylor Bradford's A Secret Affair" is one of those extremely romantic fantasies which are made for TV. Now that means that this is not a movie for everyone because it is all over the top romantic melodrama combined with the less than subtle subplot about someone following their passion. But for those who enjoy a bit of gratuitous romantic melodrama with over the top gestures and cheesy dialogue this will probably entertain.

If Vanessa Stewart (Janine Turner - Cliffhanger) was honest with herself she would follow her passion for art but instead works in the family business as a buyer and is engaged to marry Stephen (Robert Mailhouse - The Christmas Pageant) the company's financial officer. But during a buying trip to Venice, Italy she meets Bill Fitzgerald (Paudge Behan) a war reporter who doesn't take know for an answer and they end up spending a romantic few days together. The trouble is that when Vanessa returns home she finds it hard to go back to her old ways having had her passion reignited.

Paudge Behan in A Secret Affair (1999)

So to sum up "A Secret Affair" simply the story is about Vanessa who has towed the line by joining the family business and getting engaged to a straight laced guy who is 50 shades of safe. But during a trip to Venice she meets Bill and her passionate side is released as they have an affair and he encourages her to follow her passion for art rather than sitting behind a desk in the family business. Of course that is not that simple for Vanessa due to her obligations to both her parents and Stephen but never the less her few days of being herself with Bill make going back to normality hard work.

The thing is that all of the above whilst reasonable enough is done in such an OTT romantic style that unless you are a lover of movies full of big sweeping gestures and ridiculously cheesy romantic lines it becomes both annoying and seriously cheesy. Now I can normally put up with all these OTT romantic melodrama but it is so full on during the movie that I found myself laughing more often than not. And as such whilst "A Secret Affair" has some recognizable faces such as Janine Turner, Fionnula Flanagan and Robert Mailhouse their performances are less than memorable because their characters are such unbelievable stereotypes.

The one thing which "A Secret Affair" has going for it are the early scenes in Venice which make the most of the wonderful city and its fantastic buildings. I was fortunate enough to visit Venice in 1999 and seeing the sights brought back so memories it's just a shame that the entire movie isn't set there.

Now having said all of this there is something which I haven't mentioned and that is half way through and "A Secret Affair" takes a surprising twist. I won't say what it is although I will say is that you half expect something but it does put a different spin on what had been purely predictable romantic melodrama up to that point.

What this all boils down to is that "A Secret Affair" is definitely not a movie for everyone due to its OTT melodramatic, romantic styling but if you enjoy slushy romantic fairytales full of huge gestures it will probably entertain.