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In the Bedroom (2001)


“Excess of grief for the dead is madness; for it is an injury to the living, and the dead know it not” – Xenophon

Frank (Nick Stahl), a gentle and selfless post-grad college student finds himself wanting to spend the rest of his life with Natalie (Marisa Tomei), a single mother of two young boys who themselves are in love with Frank – the father they never had. The biological father of the boys, though – Richard (William Maptother) – reappears and shatters the lives of all involved.

“It is difficulties that show what men are” – Epictetus

A young man, Frank and his parents Ruth (Sissy Spacek) and Matt (Tom Wilkinson) are simple, content and unassuming with their friends, family and working lives. In their small town, Ruth – a school teacher, Matt, – a doctor – and Frank, – hoping to be accepted into an architectural school – are busy with their daily lives with minor complications. The most prominent of these is Frank’s relationship with Natalie, an older woman who has dangerous ties with her soon-to-be ex-husband. Frank is entirely consumed by his relationship with Natalie that he decides to postpone his academic career for a year and stay with Natalie and her young sons.

Richard (far left) faces Natalie (middle) and Frank (right) with Natalie’s sons (bottom)

All of this is shattered though, when Richard – jealous and unstable – re-enters Natalie’s life and a cataclysmic event happens, which I won’t say too much about. What I will say is that In the Bedroom is a quiet masterpiece; a true drama centred on moral dilemma, the pain of human condition and what it means to come to honest terms with a tragedy.

“It [grief, sorrow, anger] comes in waves – and then nothing. Like a rest in music: no sound, but so loud.”

If you haven’t seen this film before, I can only recommend that you see it expecting nothing and walking away from it thinking of everything. As with a few other films I have reviewed, I would also suggest reading as little about the film as possible. You may end up watching the film forgetting its general direction but when the synopsis of the film begins, you’ll feel as sick with misery and exhaustion as the characters involved. In the Bedroom begins with a sense of nothingness, ordinariness and plainness. The bliss of the everyday, I suggest. And we’re roped into this drama as if we’re living it ourselves; our family and our friends are living the nightmare.

“Talk? Who, us? What if somebody walked in? They wouldn’t recognise us, they’d think they were in the wrong house.”

This is the most insidious aspect of In the Bedroom; starting off slowly as if it is a simple family-centred drama and then descending into all-out chaos. Subtle chaos, which, in my view, is the worst kind. The kind you can’t pick up on. The impending doom and sense of menace throughout the film is striking.

Also explored in In the Bedroom are the entirely frustrating and damaging loopholes of the American legal system, which is bound to strike a chord with anyone who has experienced the often farcical nature of the ‘justice system’ at all.

“When we take revenge against another, we lose some of our innocence” – Patrice Redd Vecchione

Pros

  • Ominous, a deep sense of impending doom all throughout In the Bedroom
  • Unrivalled acting from Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson and Marisa Tomei as desperate and haunted characters.

 Cons

  • Perhaps a bit too much to read into and deconstruct; not a good film for those of you who like things made obvious

Final Verdict

7/10

Most interestingly, In the Bedroom refers to fishing terminology – the fact that placing at least two crustaceans (lobsters, crabs, etc.) in one bucket (the bedroom) will lead to them fighting and resulting in one being killed. This crab mentality as it’s colloquially known has devastating effects in the human world. As nature often reflects the lives and cycles of our human world, it’s important to remember that many lessons can be learnt from nature. Unfortunately, this crab mentality leads to the mutual destruction of all parties involved, at least in some shape or form. This is precisely the case with In the Bedroom – no one comes out of the proverbial bucket unscathed.

“And remember, it’s also very funny, because side by side with grief lies joy” – Fran Drescher

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