In the Bedroom Todd Field
Published Dec 01, 2001"In The Bedroom" is a slow, moody character piece that explores in excruciating detail the effects that a violent tragedy has on all who are close to it. The film takes place over a summer in the small fishing town of Camden, Maine and centres around the Fowler family, upper class couple Matt (Tom Wilkinson) and Ruth (Sissy Spacek) and their only son Frank (Nick Stahl), who is killing the time before starting graduate school working as a lobsterman. The overbearing Ruth is concerned about Frank's relationship with uneducated single mother Natalie (Marisa Tomei), who is trying to extricate herself from an abusive marriage to Richard Strout (William Mapother). Ruth's worst fears are realised when Frank is killed trying to defend Natalie and her sons from a raging Richard.
The film, based on the Andre Dubus story "Killings," is a meditation on grief and its ravaging effects. It carefully studies Ruth and Matt as they slowly disintegrate when they are unable to come to terms with or even communicate about Frank death. Adding to their situation is the claustrophobic small town setting where around every corner lies they possibility of running into the bailed-out Richard. These circumstances force the couple into formerly unimaginable actions in attempts to cope with their pain.
The cast is excellent across the board. Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek do an amazing job at embodying the unbearable grief of the Fowler couple, while William Mapother exudes an frightening evil that manages not to be cliched or caricatured and Marisa Tomei strikes the right balance or toughness and vulnerability as she tries to stave off Richard, protect her family, and maintain a relationship. Actor Todd Field's directorial debut is remarkably assured, creating a stark visual landscape and taking his time in exploring his characters unravel. He tends to place the moments of violence just off-screen, leaving the scene up to the viewer's imagination. This, coupled with the slow pace and careful character study, give the film a distancing effect that makes the viewer less caught up in the action and more of an objective voyeur.