Review: In The Bedroom (2001)

in_the_bedroom

I wish I could land an older chick as hot as Marisa Tomei!

Screenplay By: Robert Festinger & Todd Field
Directed By: Todd Field

The title of the movie is In The Bedroom and the title carries through to the very end. It’s a little throwaway line said by Tom Wilkinson in an innocuous conversation with the young son of the girl his son is currently seeing. But, that nondescript line about how you can’t have three people in the bedroom becomes the focal point of the entire movie. Frank and Natalie can’t find happiness and only find tragedy because of the third person still in their bedroom. Richard destroys that relationship then he begins to destroy the relationship between Matt and Ruth just because of the fact he is still alive. In the emotionally damaged state of Matt and Ruth only one solution presents itself, kill Richard and they can move on with their lives. The deed is carried out, but Richard still lingers on, he is still the third person in the bedroom of their relationship. Matt and Ruth may have needed revenge, but now the result of their need lingers on well past the point when the credits begin to roll.

Just viewed as a standard family drama In The Bedroom is a heck of a movie, but when you take the above into account and the way the film deals with the idea of revenge you have a great movie on your hands. Thankfully I know nothing of the situation faced by the Fowler’s and Natalie, but the movie comes across as truthful in its story and in its look at revenge. That is a testament to the writing and direction of the film, that a subject matter I know little about feels emotionally honest to me.

Visually In The Bedroom is an arresting film, yet it sort of sneaks up on you. It wasn’t until around the middle of the film that I began to take notice of the excellent framing Todd Field was using and how expansive his camera was making the story. If you want an amazing looking nature shot then Field gives you that, or if you want a silent shot of a couple now sitting at a distance from each other with no idea of what to say in the wake of their devastation, Field gives you that as well. If I had to peg it, I would say that In The Bedroom has a staid visual style, the camera is restrained in its movement but when it needs to it isn’t afraid to open up and show you the larger picture and to do so in style.

I happen to be a big fan of the way that In The Bedroom went about revealing and layering its stories. Movies that take the type of approach to story that In The Bedroom did have always appealed to me. The best analogy I can think of is a sponge. If you squeeze a wet sponge hardly water comes pouring out in one quick windfall. However, if you squeeze said sponge slowly and softly water doesn’t come rushing out, tiny droplets slowly form and vacate their terrain. The droplets take their time to form and if your squeeze is slow they take their time to hit their target, giving you all the time in the world to study them and take in their appearance and their make. That is how In The Bedroom is told, it doesn’t come rushing at you, rather it slowly develops, giving you ample time to take in every moment and place that moment amidst the bigger picture.

Another tool that In The Bedroom brings to the table is silence. I have spoken in the past of the power of silence, and In the Bedroom understands the type of power that silence can command. To go along with the sponge analogy, the almost silent moments take place when you need time to breathe, to truly comprehend what you have just seen or what you are in the middle of seeing. There is a difference between the silence of two characters sitting still because the movie doesn’t know what to do with them, and the silence of two characters sitting still because the movie wants you to understand their feelings through their silence.

There are so many other things I can talk about, such as the way In The Bedroom tackles blame in a relationship. We search for blame when things are going well, and when they are bad it’s even worse. I could even go into the early moments when Frank is happily together with Natalie, a women with two children. I know what it is like to have a relationship with a women who has kids, it is truly different from any other relationship. I could also touch on the amazing suspense of the car ride with Matt and Richard. I knew exactly where that car ride was going and how it would end, but knowledge wasn’t the point. That car ride was similar to the return boat trip in Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans, I wanted to turn away, I wanted to yell at Matt to not go down that path, but I couldn’t and so I watched and dreaded what was to come. I could even go into the wonderful acting on display in In The Bedroom. The nuanced performances of Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek, the quiet hurt of Marisa Tomei or the childlike outlook of Nick Stahl.

I don’t think it’s hard to figure out from my writing that In The Bedroom is a movie that left a mark on me. It’s funny how that works, I hadn’t heard word one about In The Bedroom until a few months ago. Somehow this film skipped me by when it was released and was given rave reviews. If not for someone whose opinion on movies I happen to value mentioning In The Bedroom as a great movie I don’t know if I ever would have gotten around to watching it. I am very thankful for that positive word of mouth reaching my ears, because In The Bedroom was a powerful piece of cinema that will stay with me for some time to come. I think what I have written to this point is recommendation enough, all I can hope is that my positive word of mouth will get someone to check out In The Bedroom and discover the same finely made film that once passed me by.

Rating:

****

Cheers,
Bill

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