In the Bedroom

Ray Feller

If you are looking for a pleasant evening out, In the Bedroom would be a bad choice. However, anyone eager to see truly good acting and directing in a drama ought to see this depressing but excellent film.The premise of In the Bedroom initially looks like it is going to be a feel-good movie. There is an unlikely couple that has found happiness together: Frank (Nick Stahl), a very clever college-boy on his way to becoming an architect, and Natalie (Marisa Tomei, nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role), a divorcee with two children. Granted, Frank’s parents Matt (Tom Wilkinson, nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role) and, particularly, Ruth (Sissy Spacek, nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role) are against it, and Natalie’s ex-husband Richard (William Mapother) is abusive and tends to arrive without warning, but it appears that the plot is going to revolve around those problems working out. But then…it doesn’t.

Richard arrives unannounced one afternoon and, in Frank’s efforts to protect Natalie and the boys, Frank is shot in the head.

From this point on, the movie is about how the loss of a son affects the parents. Spacek is incredible as the reclusive mother, growing more and more angry with her husband for trying to move on with his life. She is chillingly distant and unforgiving. Wilkinson deals with the loss differently, trying to overcome the pain by going back to work and seeing friends, with the occasional breakdown when something reminds him of the tragedy or of Frank himself.

The movie deals beautifully with emotion, allowing it to truly touch you rather than pushing the sadness on you. For instance, instead of the usual tragic, sad music, most of the emotional scenes have no music at all, letting the water in the sink or the roar of the lawn mower or a different realistic background sound emphasize the emptiness being felt.

Based on a novel by Andre Dubus, and dedicated to him, Todd Field has done a marvelous job directing this film. It is an honest movie that is more about the people than the plot, and gives impressive depth to their characters.