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2004 Mini Reviews

In the Bedroom (2001)

In the Bedroom
Directed by Todd Field
Starring Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Marisa Tomei, Nick Stahl
Running Time: 130 minutes

Todd Field's In the Bedroom is one of the most gripping dramas to be released in this early decade. Unlike other films where emotion is the central character, In the Bedroom succeeds in making the viewer a character, a bystander who can't help but empathise for these people, yet also can't help but be captivated by them.

In the Bedroom is the story of loss. A family's son is murdered by his girlfriend's ex-husband, and they have to accustom themselves to life without him. They try to move on in their own ways, but they can't really be the same people again. Life is not the same without him. They also have to live knowing that their son's murderer will likely walk free, in the same town, and they are destined to encounter him.

All three major performers seem so natural in their roles. Every action communicates their pain so eloquently, unlike any film I've seen before. While it isn't easy to watch them do the things they do, or say the things they say, there is no doubt that every action is a reaction to the loss of their son, and to the presence of his killer. I consider Tom Wilkinson's performance to be the strongest of the decade so far, and Sissy Spacek's is her strongest in a very successful career. Marisa Tomei was surprised me, having not been very impressed with her even with My Cousin Vinny.

The dramatic elements are not forced, but seem to come naturally. The film is paced slowly, which allows us to fully absorb the emotion and the weight it has on these characters. The card game scene in particular is remarkable because it is the absence of Frank, and the ackward silence acknowledging his absence that is really moving.

Minor spoilers coming ..

The end of the film isn't entirely expected, but it is in a sense welcomed and understood. This was the only possible conclusion that would allow the Fowlers to live in peace, or to live at all. While it was a bold decision, you understand in the end that there really was no decision. They had no choice, after what had happened to their son, and to their lives.

In the Bedroom is tragic, and not an easy to film to watch, but it's power is immeasurable and I consider it to be the first dramatic masterpiece of the new millenium.

Score: 10/10