A slow-burning, brooding movie that credits its audience with intelligence and patience, In the Bedroom
starts deceptively calmly but builds to a climax of shattering desolation. Actor Todd Field's debut as a director, the film is set in a small coastal town in Maine, home of pleasant middle-class couple Matt and Ruth Fowler and their college-age son Frank. Frank, an adored only child, has started an affair that disquiets his mother; his lover, Natalie, is a lovely woman but a few years older than Frank, with two children, and her estranged rich-kid husband has a very mean streak. Even in this peaceful, well-ordered community, something extremely nasty might happen, and suddenly, shockingly, it does.
It's not the pivotal act of violence but its aftermath that gives the movie its full impact. Field and his coscreenwriter Rob Festinger remorselessly trace the way grief, anger and a thwarted desire for justice can open up rancid cracks in a seemingly placid marriage and turn the most civilised of men to thoughts of murder. And, contrary to Hollywood convention, there's nothing cathartic or redemptive about revenge in this film: the conclusion is bleak. As Ruth, Sissy Spacek is superb, her brittle sunniness giving way to vituperation and anguish, and she's matched step for step by Tom Wilkinson as Matt, deploying a note-perfect Maine accent that never falters. In the Bedroom rarely puts a foot wrong: only the title was perhaps a miscalculation, with its suggestion of steamy rompings. In fact it's a fishing term, meaning what happens when two lobsters get trapped in the same pot.
On the DVD: In the Bedroom on disc has nothing but a trailer by way of extras, which seems like a missed opportunity. Still, the transfer is excellent, faithfully reproducing the full 2.35:1 ratio of the original. --Philip Kemp