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The film begins with the scene of a typical surburban household on a weekday morning. The mother, Connie Sumner (Diane Lane) is cooking breakfast, her 8 year old son is getting ready for school and her husband Edward (Richard Gere) is getting ready for work. Connie mentions that she has to go into Manhattan that day to do some shopping for an auction she is planning. Edward and their son step out into what seems like gale force winds to go to work/school.
Connie then takes the train into Grand Central to do her errands, which become mired in difficulty as she tries to navigate through New York's downtown Soho in the winds. As she chases after taxis, she crashes into a stranger carrying a stack of books on Mercer Street.
They both fall, and Connie scraps her knee. The stranger offers to have Connie go up to his apartment to clean off the scrap. At that moment, an empty cab goes by - in that split second, Connie decides to take the stranger up on his offer, instead of heading back to the train station. The kind stranger is Paul Martel, a Frenchman who buys and sells used books out of a beautiful loft. He offers her tea while she calls home to check on her son. While she is talking to her son, Paul moves up silently behind her and places ice on her bloody knee. She gasps, but he moves away before she realizes why she gasped.
Connie decides that she feels uncomfortable and tells Paul that she needs to go home. He lets her go, and gives her a book of poetry as a gift. That night, Connie tells Edward about the incident but did not elaborate on her visit to Paul's apartment.
The next morning, after Edward and her son leave the house, she picks up the poetry book from Paul. His business card falls out. She takes the train into Manhattan again and calls him from Grand Central. He invites her over for coffee.
When Connie steps into his apartment, he has soft music playing in the background and asks her to dance. She is hesitant at first, then decides that it is wrong. She starts to leave, but has to come back into the apartment for her coat. Paul grabs her and kisses her. The affair begins.
Edward begins to suspect something when Connie increases the frequency with which she visits Manhattan; and when she no longer seems interested in Edward. Meanwhile, a co-worker of Edward's spots Connie and Paul kissing in a downtown cafe. Edward enlists the help of a detective to follow Connie.
The detective comes back with pictures of Connie and Paul, and Edward is devastated. He decides to go visit Paul Martel. He arrives at Martel's doorstep, but couldn't get in the front door, so he walks back to the car. Just as he turns his back, Connie comes out of the apartment, gets into her car (which has a parking ticket) and drives off. Edward then sees someone else coming out of the apartment, and slips inside. He meets Paul and gets angrier and angrier - especially when he sees a snow globe that he gave Connie on Paul's window sill
He gets so irate that he uses the snow globe to bludgeon Paul on the head. The last thing Paul sees is blood pouring down his face.
Edward panics, but cleans the blood up, wipes off his fingerprints from everything he touches.. wraps Paul up in a Persian Rug and dumps the body in his trunk. Just as he was about to take off, the phone rings - and it's Connie, saying she needs to end the affair. Edward erases the message and leaves.
That night, he drives out to the dump and leaves Paul's body there.
Not long after, 2 detectives from the NYPD show up. They say that Paul's wife had reported him missing, and they found Connie's phone number in Paul's apartment. She says she only met him once.
A week later, the detectives come back and say they found Paul's body at the dump. Connie is very upset but maintains that she only met him once. Edward also tells the police that he'd never met Paul before. The detectives leave.
That night, Connie drops off Edward's clothes to the dry cleaners and finds the photos of her and Paul. She knows then that Edward had something to do with Paul's death. It is confirmed when she sees that snow globe that she gave Paul back on the shelf in her home.
Edward and Connie confront each other about what each had done. They burn the photographs. Edward offers to turn himself in. Connie said that he shouldn't and they'd get through it together. Connie picks up the snow globe she gave Paul and the bottom of the globe comes loose. Inside is a note from Edward saying that she is the best part of everyday. (This is why Edward lost it when he saw it in Paul's apartment).
The last scene shows Edward and Connie are in their car stopped at a red traffic light. They are talking about what they should do. Should they sell their house and business, move to a new location and change their names, starting life over again or should Edward turn himself in to the police and face the consequences of his actions. This conversation goes on for a long time during which the stop light changes many times from red to green and back casting symbolic red and green light on their faces. They never reach a decision that we hear. Finally the camera pulls back and we see that their car is stopped in the middle of a street and off to the right side is a police station. What do they do ? It's up to the audience to decide.
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