Todd Field’s In The Bedroom (2001) 2hrs 6mins
Stars: Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Nick Stahl, Marisa Tomei, William Mapother.
(Contains major spoilers)
Never before or since in my film viewing experience, have I been more challenged as human being then with ‘In The Bedroom’ An Outstanding film, my choice as best film of the 2000s. As warned above this review contains all the spoilers. It’s strictly for those who have seen the film. Beginning with the stunning and beautifully haunting music of Thomas Newman, the superb cinematography shows us the mainland of Maine. The film stars the brilliant Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek as husband and wife Matt and Ruth Fowler. Matt is the local doctor and Ruth is the choir mistress at the local high school. They have a twenty-something year old son Frank (Nick Stahl) who is in a relationship with a single mum of two boys; Natalie (Marisa Tomei) When Natalie’s ex-husband Richard (William Mapother) arrives on the scene, all hell breaks lose.
In The Bedroom was based on a short story by Andre Dubus. It was adapted for the screen by Robert Festinger and Todd Field, the director of the film. On the surface it is about the relationship between Frank and Natalie and then it develops into something completely unexpected. It develops into a story of grief and loneliness. Richard eventually kills Frank in the quarter of an hour mark. The film changes from being about romance to grief in the blink of an eye. It’s ironic the title of the short story published in 1979 was called Killings, a potential spoiler for everyone.
In The Bedroom was nominated for five Academy Awards, Best Picture, Best Actor for Wilkinson, Best Actress for Spacek, Best Supporting Actress for Tomei and Best Adapted Screenplay for Robert Festinger and Todd Field. It sadly, won none of them. It has to be said that there are clearly several omissions for Field’s direction Newman’s music and the cinematography and editing.
Todd Field’s pacing is so orchestrated, subtle and poetic. The landscape of Maine in its own way resonates a comparison to its lonely characters. Matt and Ruth mourn the loss of their son, they soon find out that Richard to being let out on of prison on bail and that he’ll probably face a manslaughter charge. After that news, Natalie approaches Ruth, who slaps her hard and then acts as if nothing ever happened. Spacek’s portrayal of an empty soul is enthralling and Tomei’s performance is one of her very best. You really notice the chemistry between Stahl and Tomei, not to mention the astonishing duo of Wilkinson and Spacek.
There are two close ups of Matt that completely define his character. The first is after hearing the news of Richard’s mostly likely sentence; there is a close up of his face and we see all of the sadness and loneliness that now governs his life after the life of the loss of his son. The second is when Matt approaches Richard. I swear to you I just thought that he wanted a few words with Richard. But, then you see Matt raise a gun. In at that moment you really see what all of this has really done to Matt’s soul. It is all displayed beautifully in Wilkinson’s eyes, what marvellous actor he is and why didn’t he receive the Academy Award?
When Matt is driven to kill Richard. He returns home to bed. Ruth says “Is it done?” Matt looks up at the ceiling. Do we as the audience feel that justice is done? No, that is the whole point nothing ever bring Frank back.
As I said at the beginning of the review that this film challenged more as a human being that any other. It did so, because when I saw it a few months ago I was and still am the same age as Frank and my parents are the same age as Matt and Ruth. For two straight weeks after watching this film, I could not get it out of my head. I tried so hard to understand these characters and feel with their pain and I finally realised that I couldn’t. Because I am me and they are them. And that is the way it always will be.