Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Todd Field
Stars: Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Nick Stahl, Marisa Tomei, William Mapother,
A film of rare intelligence, realism and resonating emotional power, In The Bedroom has already garnered rave reviews overseas where it has been one of the best-reviewed films of the past year. It has already been highly acclaimed at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it was awarded a special jury prize for acting. The film deserves its accolades. Several stand out performances look likely to be honoured when the annual awards-giving frenzy commences.
The film is set in Camden, a peaceful fishing town on the Maine coast, during one idyllic summer. The Fowler family is a part of this town, with roots stretching back several generations of tough fishermen.
Matt (Tom Wilkinson, from The Full Monty, etc) is the local doctor, while his wife Ruth (Sissy Spacek) teaches music at the local school. Their only son Frank (Nick Stahl, from The Man Without A Face, etc) is home from college for the holidays. Frank drifts into an affair with Natalie (Marisa Tomei, from My Cousin Vinny, etc), a single mother of two young children. But when Natalie’s volatile estranged husband Richard (William Mapother, Tom Cruise’s cousin) kills Frank during a heated domestic argument, the Fowler’s world falls apart. They have to deal with their sense of guilt (a parent should never have to outlive their children), regrets, pain and recriminations. While they grieve for their son and slowly try to put their shattered lives back together, they also have to try to come to terms with the slowly grinding wheels of justice which has let the killer out on bail, free to wander the streets until the trial.
As a meditation on loss and the grieving process, In The Bedroom is far more powerful and heart wrenching than the recent French drama Under The Sand. But In The Bedroom also ventures into similar territory as the recent The Deep End and the Oscar winning American Beauty, probing behind the facade of the seemingly perfect American family in crisis. This superb, emotionally charged drama explores some devastating truths in an honest fashion that is rare in American movies. In The Bedroom is a remarkable directorial debut effort from Todd Field, a former actor, who is able to bring a genuine sense of quiet desperation and loss to the film. A number of small, almost wordless scenes brilliantly capture the devastating cost of Frank’s death on Matt and Ruth.
Field draws delicately nuanced and sympathetic performances from his marvelous ensemble cast. Spacek delivers a restrained and understated performance that beautifully captures Ruth’s quiet anger, grief and fragile sense of existence, while Wilkinson is superb, delivering a compassionate and sensitive performance that is, arguably, the best of his career. Tomei also delivers the best performance of her career, easily capturing Natalie’s vulnerability and sense of guilt over the role she unwittingly played in Frank’s death.