In the Bedroom (2001)

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In the Bedroom: Directed by Todd Field. With Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Nick Stahl, Marisa Tomei. A New England couple’s college-aged son dates an older woman who has two small children and an unwelcome ex-husband.

“9 out of 10u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eWatching Todd Fieldu0026#39;s feature film debut `In the Bedroom,u0026#39; I could not help but be impressed by the sheer audacity of the film, by the spot-on performances, and by the many twists and turns that no critic should reveal. Yet amidst all the filmu0026#39;s obvious strengths, there was still something missing-something to tie it all together, something to endow the film with more than just a fleeting impression.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eIronically perhaps, I was provided this missing bit of information not by the film, but by a male audience member sitting at the end of my aisle, trying to explain the point of the film in less than derogatory terms to his female companion.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003e`Youu0026#39;re missing the whole point of the film,u0026#39; he said. `It was all about men being controlled by women.u0026#39;u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eNo doubt he read this interpretation from someone elseu0026#39;s review of the film (and what a sweet piece of justice it would be if that critic were a woman). It is quite possible that he was not even aware of the ramifications of what he had said. But this manu0026#39;s legitimacy aside, his statement has not left me since, and the film in turn has had the same luck in escaping me.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eWe are first introduced to Frank Fowler (Nick Stahl, `Bullyu0026#39;) and Natalie Strout (Marisa Tomei, `My Cousin Vinnyu0026#39;), he a young college student with no immediate plans to settle down, she an older divorcee raising two children. They are in love, though for Frank she is little more than a `summer fling.u0026#39; Meanwhile Natalieu0026#39;s ex-husband, Richard (William Mapother, `Mission: Impossible 2u0026#39;), is unwilling to let her out of his life, and begins to be physically abusive to Frank. Franku0026#39;s parents, Matt (Tom Wilkinson, `The Full Montyu0026#39;) and Ruth (Sissy Spacek, `The Straight Storyu0026#39;)-both in top form here-show appropriate concern for their only son, and they intervene in this dangerous love triangle with unexpected twists and tragic results.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThe film jumps about in tone from a light romantic romp to a seeming political treatise to a creepy, nocturnal thriller. Some have criticized the film for this alleged inconsistency in tone, slow pacing, and a deliberate ending. But these naysayers have overlooked the point.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eFrank may not even really love Natalie, so much as he loves being controlled by her and sating his mother by being with her. Richard becomes a threat to everyone because he is unwilling to let Natalie consider him out of her life; he is a slave to her whim. The resulting tension reveals a rift between Franku0026#39;s parents, and in particular, his fatheru0026#39;s actions in the end demonstrate a helpless allegiance to his wife and her command.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eField, who up until now has been primarily an actor (he was the piano player in `Eyes Wide Shutu0026#39;), understands these important points but does not beat the viewer over the head with them. He presents a reality more raw and true than any other piece of film in recent memory. Yet he does so with a restraint that Hollywood seems to have forgotten. Most of the filmu0026#39;s violence is overheard or implied, and only explicitly shown when necessary for the audience to completely understand what has happened. This allows for more subtle details, like a bridgekeeper who must run around in circles to alternate traffic between the road and the sea, to emerge as truly haunting, lasting images.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eBut `In the Bedroomu0026#39; is not about any of these things. It is, first and foremost, about its characters. It does not fall prey to plot mechanics, nor does it flinch at exploring even the most sympathetic charactersu0026#39; darkest sides. For this and so many other reasons which are best left discussed behind closed doors between loved ones, `In the Bedroomu0026#39; succeeds at turning the camera on flawed relationships of all forms, and it is one of the best films of the year.”


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