In the Bedroom

In the Bedroom has the luxury of having Todd Field (Nonnie and Alex, Delivering) direct. Field himself is an actor, so as a director, he knows how to get the best performances out of his cast. What a great job he does here. Field has an easy time getting two great anchor performances by Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek, and supporting performances by Marisa Tomei and William Mapother. Field takes the time to develop characters and motivations, sometimes at the expense of the pacing. At times, In the Bedroom moves slightly slowly, but watching the actors play off each other more than makes up for this. Field and Robert Festinger adapt the movie from Andre Dubus' short story.

At its heart, In the Bedroom is about the relationship between Matt and Ruth Fowler. The Fowlers live in rural main. Matt (Wilkinson, The Patriot, Ride with the Devil) is the local doctor, and Ruth (Spacek, The Straight Story, Blast from the Past) teaches music at the local high school. Their son Frank (Nick Stahl, Bully, Sunset Strip) is home from college, working as a lobsterman. He is dating Natalie Strout (Marisa Tomei, What Women Want, Someone Like You), an older woman with two small children. She also has yet to get a divorce from her husband Richard (William Mapother, Mission Impossible II, Swordfish), a violent man. Frank believes the relationship is just a 'summer thing.' Field uses this relationship to bring to light Matt and Ruth's alienation with each other.

Matt does not mind the relationship, whereas Ruth highly disapproves. The first third of the movie ends with a violent act that serves to shatter everybody's sense of complacency. The remainder of In the Bedroom deals with Matt and Ruth's individual reactions to the act, and their reactions to each other. Here is where Wilkinson and Spacek excel. Both of them internalize the trauma, but their outward appearances vary dramatically. Matt acts normally, as if nothing had happened. His demeanor does not reveal any of his true thoughts. Ruth withdraws herself into her work, becoming quiet testy. Wilkinson and Spacek make the tension between the two palpable. At some point, they will collide.

Field explores the repercussions of the violent act, and how it changes the people involved. These are ordinary people dealing with exceptional stress, and Field handles the actors well by not letting them overact. Everybody gives subtle performances, sometimes looking like they are not doing anything. It is very nuanced, and extremely difficult for actors to do, and Wilkinson and Spacek succeed masterfully. Tomei and Mapother also give good performances, and it's a shame that they are not in the film more.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 16 minutes, Rated R for some violence and language.

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