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
Todd Field's film is a slowburning work, choosing a style that feels somewhere between Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (which Field starred in) in terms of pace & Kieslowski's Three Colours: Blue (1993)- which is another intense study of grief.
The film may not be quite as powerful following the initial viewing, and its messages are certainly confused- is this a moral regarding the acquisition of justice? The best things about the film are the music (by Thomas Newman), the camerawork & the performances. Tom Wilkinson is faultless as Matt, displaying an excellent American accent- why Jim Broadbent's standard turn in Iris was deemed better than this I don't know. Sissy Spacek is always great to watch on-screen, while Nick Stahl (Bully), Marisi Tomei (Four Rooms)& Karen Allen (MIA since Raiders of the Lost Ark, still very beautiful)are amongst the great supporting cast.
The film is roughly in three-parts: the first is a portrait of the state of things- Spacek & Wilkinson are the parents of only child Stahl, who is on sabbatical from college & has formed a relationship with a seperated mother of two (Tomei). Enter the father of the children, who beats Frank up, building up to a shooting...
The second part sees how white people with money can use the law to plea bargain & manipulate the system- reducing an act of murder to manslaughter. The grieving parents begin to act in different ways- drinking & smoking both figure. Here it is made clear that the notion of justice is absent, leading to the third part...
Here the film shifts into a revenge thriller, leading to a bleak underplayed denoument that reminds me of films like Blood Simple, A Simple Plan & The Conformist. The end is between theatrical & the transcendental- I particularly liked the open window, floating curtains & spirals of blue smoke. It is unclear whether the final act has left the couple in heaven or hell.
In the Bedroom is a very good film, albeit one that is bleak & may leave the viewer reeling in misery like films such as The Ice Storm and The Pledge. One of the strongest films of recent years that viewers with patience will find much of interest in.
Matt Fowler (Tom Wilkinson) is the local doctor in a small fishing town in Maine. Ruth (Sissy Spacek) his wife teaches choral singing at the school and their only son, Frank (Nick Stahl) is preparing to go away to college. The only slight cloud on their idyllic life is Frank's infatuation with local single mother Natelie Strout (Marisa Tomei). Although Natelie seems to be a devoted and loving mother, and is welcomed and accepted by Frank's parents, they are wary of Natelie's ex-husband Richard (William Mapother) who is a brooding and sinister presence on the horizon.
Tragedy strikes when Richard guns down Frank after trying to break into his former family home. With a legal system that not only releases Richard on bail, but also seems intent on not making him face a murder charge, Matt and Ruth must not only face the future without their only child but come to terms with the probably injustices that are coming their way.
What following a basically a series of snapshot postcard film snippets showing the heartbreaking life that they now lead whilst in the background everyday life continues as normal. The scenes are extremely carefully and cleverly shot; sometimes without any dialogue they show the despair far better than a stream of contrived dialogue.
The film was nominated for 5 Oscars (although it won none) including both those of Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, and well deserved they were as well. Tom Wilkinson, a million miles away from Sheffield and the Full Monty, puts on a superb American accent and plays the mournful doctor with great feeling. Sissy Spacek is simply superb and the film is worth watching for her performance alone. There are other smaller parts which are equally well played, William Wise and Celia Weston as the Fowler's best friends deserve special mention. Also full credit to William Mapother as the evil Richard, quite a chilling performance indeed.
I'm interesting to read that a couple of the other reviewers here mention the soundtrack, as it was half way through the film that I realised the film is almost totally without music, apart from the haunting songs that Ruth leads her choir in I didn't hear any other music at all.
It's not a film for all, and you may feel somewhat worse after watching it than you did before seeing it. But that said, any cinema fans should watch it as it is one of the remarkable films of modern times.
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