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In the Bedroom (2001)

June 18, 2010

9/10 Constant Reminders

Flat-out unforgettable.

In the Bedroom is about an aging couple in Maine and their teenage son who spends his Summer fishing for lobsters, weighing the pros and cons of returning to college in the Fall and figuring out how serious he is about his relationship with a single mother twice his age. For the most part, everything’s peachy, but all that changes when a member of the family is murdered in cold blood, ripping their lives apart at the seams and forcing them to cope with grief that refuses to disappear.

The first time I saw this was about six or seven years ago, and – I don’t think I’m alone on this one – I haven’t been able to shake it since. I was too young to see it in theaters when it first came out, but I distinctly remember it being the first movie that I’d heard absolutely nothing about, then seemingly overnight it became the movie to see, everyone followed suit and no one could stop talking about it. After watching it for a second time two nights ago and immediately recalling all the reasons why I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it for the past six or seven years, it’s easy to see why this picture spread like wildfire and continues to stand as a testament to the power of great film making regardless of budget or blockbuster publicity.

But it’s a hard movie to write about, mostly because I’m gonna have to pussyfoot around some of the more seminal aspects of the story for the sake of all you out there who haven’t seen it, but also because the extent to which one can convey an experience like this through text, along with all the difficult questions it raises, does not do it justice. I don’t know, how can you convey grief? How do you get over it? How do you live?

All tough questions, questions I sure as hell can’t answer, questions that no one has a foolproof solution to, and they’re a cornerstone to why this movie is so damn affective.

When the wheels are finally put in motion and this family in placed in a tragic set of circumstances that no one ever expects, all we can do is wonder what’s going through their heads as they try to go about their daily lives, try to move on, try to pretend nothing ever happened to the general public, to each other and to themselves. Whether they’re mowing the lawn, returning to work or spending a weekend with their friends with smiles on their faces, you don’t need to hear them say it to know that despite how hard they try to put on a show, the only thing on their mind is the void in their life that won’t go away. It takes a long time for things to vocally come to the surface – and when it rains, it pours – but the ever-present silence speaks volumes in ways words truly can’t.

It’s written and directed by one Todd Field, and even though I kinda crapped on his last movie, Little Children, the guy is the real deal. My favorite kinds of movies are the ones grounded in real people dealing with real problems, and that’s just what he’s created here. His script and direction are perfectly subtle, universally human and they complement each other beautifully, if “beautiful” is even the right word for this story. Really makes me wish I liked Children more (damn omniscient narrator…), but I cannot wait for Blood Meridian all the same.

But so much of why it all works is due to the absolutely phenomenal cast.

The parents are played by Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek, two individuals who arguably deserved the Oscars far more so than the people who got them (Denzel for Training Day? So tired of IOU awards). Just like with Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People, it’s equally harrowing and fascinating to see the different ways in which people cope with loss, a married couple living under the same roof no less, and even though Spacek is nowhere near the mega bitch that Moore was, they both give outstanding performances that bare everything they’ve got. Their presence makes everything seem far more genuine than it already is and I don’t know how Tom Wilkinson hasn’t gotten the physical credit he’s been due all these years. Such a great actor and the same goes for Spacek (even though Oscars are old hat for her).

The son is played by Nick Stahl, and I don’t know why he hasn’t done more worth noting outside of The Man Without a Face and Sin City, ’cause he’s darn good here. Frank is a great character, one you like immediately, and Stahl seems to play him pretty naturally. Along with Marisa Tomei‘s turn as his girlfriend – who isn’t half bad either, even though I’m still not sure what to think of her as an actress – they hold their own even if they do get kinda overshadowed by Spacek and Wilkinson. Still, good characters.

And William Mapother (who could solve world hunger and would still be Ethan from Lost to me) is one royal sonofabitch as Tomei’s ex-husband. Dude’s just got that look about him.

But going back to the beginning, I could dedicate an entire blog to this movie and it still wouldn’t come anywhere close to matching the gravity and power of seeing it for yourself. In the Bedroom is simple yet complex, difficult yet penetrating, and even if you’ve never experienced a personal loss to the degree that this family does, you will remember this movie. Easily one of the best of the past decade, way better than A Beautiful Mind ever was.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2010 12:42 am

    I agree. This is such a haunting, poignant and powerful film. I think this is one of those ones that slowly grows on people the more and more they think about it. I wrote a review on it just a couple of months ago and I think the issues I had already seem silly once I think back on how the overall film flows. There are so many fantastic moments and I love how Field lingers on some moments and truncates others. It’s a truly fascinating picture and I can’t wait to see more from Field. I actually dig Little Children a lot, although I get your omniscient narrator gripe.

    • June 18, 2010 8:08 am

      Haha, you should see the comments section of my Little Children review, I think you’ll feel right at home. But this really is one of those movies that gets better after it’s over and stays in your brain for ever. Thought the quiet scenes where nothing happens at all were some of the best. Good point about Field lingering some scenes and truncating others, that’s what it’s all about.

  2. June 18, 2010 6:36 am

    What’s it like to be The Lamb’s best film critic! Another good review Aiden of a very powerful film.

  3. June 18, 2010 7:27 am

    I saw this a few years ago on SKY Movies, when I was still living at my parents house. It had a profound effect on me. I was particularly moved by Marisa tomei’s performance and by the chemistry between Tom Wilkinson and cissy spacek, so raw and relatable.

    • June 18, 2010 8:04 am

      The thing with Tomei is that while she’s good, it’s so hard for me to forget Wilkinson and Spacek. Also still think that My Cousing Vinny Oscar was horse shit. That blowup with Wilkinson and Spacek was unreal, “raw” is the word, man. Glad you liked it, too.

  4. June 18, 2010 9:00 am

    you just got me itchin‘ for rewatchin‘.

  5. June 18, 2010 1:21 pm

    I liked this film a lot too! It had great performances, and gave us a true image of what human grief actually was. You start to blame the other person rather than getting to the source of pain. The ending is what kind of lost it for me, but other than I liked it as well, nice review!

    • June 18, 2010 1:27 pm

      Thanks, dude. I actually loved the ending, loved how morally ambiguous and questionable it was in a “What would you do if you were in his shoes?” kind of way. Freakin’ powerhouse of a scene.

      • June 19, 2010 2:30 pm

        Wilkinson deserved an Oscar for the ending alone.

      • June 20, 2010 2:20 pm

        Agreed. Awesome performance all around.

  6. June 18, 2010 1:42 pm

    In the Bedroom got the shaft on many people’s decade-best lists and I hope it’s discovered by more people.

    • June 18, 2010 2:14 pm

      Yeah, I didn’t put it on mine either, but it’s definitely on it after this latest viewing. Great stuff.

  7. June 18, 2010 1:53 pm

    Great write up, man! I voted this the #2 movie of the decade. There is not one wrong note hit. It is sheer perfection. And I’m with you – I love movies grounded in reality, dealing with real people in real situations. Todd Field did an amazing job adapting this because the short story is short and begins AFTER the son is killed – so Field virtually created this whole backstory. It is a remarkably powerful film. And unlike you, I also loved Little Children. Field is a force to be reckoned with. Excellent work here.

    • June 18, 2010 2:16 pm

      Thanks, dude! An easy candidate for #2 of the past decade. Didn’t know that about Dumas’s short story, very interesting. Watching that first half hour again after knowing what’s coming around the corner is effing PAINFUL. God, what a movie.

  8. June 18, 2010 2:07 pm

    Will have to see this for sure now. Didn’t know what it was all about, but looks quite interesting. Great cast too.

    • June 18, 2010 2:19 pm

      It’s out of sight, man. Gotta see it, you’ll love it.

  9. Branden permalink
    June 20, 2010 12:42 pm

    I’m glad you enjoyed this movie. I recommended it a while ago. I wanted more people to see this movie. It’s quiet, but speaks volume with great dialogue and equals amounts of acting. If I were the parents, I would do the same thing. No question.

  10. mcarteratthemovies permalink
    June 21, 2010 3:35 pm

    I see you took the high road and neglected to put your LAMMY win on here … but I’m going to call you out on it and do the Best Movie Reviewer Dance in your honor. Way to go, dude. Your reviews are the funniest on the Interweb, and your serious ones are nothing to sneeze at, either! 🙂

    • June 21, 2010 3:40 pm

      Hahaha, thanks M. Right back at ya’, I didn’t really know what to say on your Cool Hand Luke review because it’s hard to express the sensation of having your head explode, but you honestly deserve all the credit you’ve gotten. Well done, lady, keep on keepin’ on. I’ll put some kinda “Thank You” post in a jif. I’m no good at these things.

  11. moriarty permalink
    July 21, 2010 11:41 am

    Hey, love your blog.

    Totally agree with the review about “in the bedroom”, Tom Wilkinson and Sissy spacek were great in that movie.

    There was an italian movie, running the same year “The son’s room” ( ) wich was pretty similar and also amazing. Just in case you’d like to check it out.


    (sorry for my english and greetings from Spain…).-

    • July 21, 2010 12:24 pm

      I was actually just thinking about that movie, went to see an Italian film yesterday called I Am Love and there was a scene that reminded me of it. I was pretty young when I first saw it in theaters and it didn’t really hit me the way it most definitely would now, but I’d really like to see that again. Very quiet and reflective if I remember correctly.

      And you’re English is flawless, btw. Thanks for visiting, man!


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