In The Bedroom


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

American thrillers can be tense, they can be violent. Subtle and tasteful? No way.

The first thing you notice about In The Bedroom is that it looks ravishing. A small fishing village in Maine that would not know what to do with murder, if it ever happened, languishes in a picturesque daze. Matt (Tom Wilkinson), son of a lobsterman, is the local doctor. Ruth (Sissy Spacek), his wife, teaches music at the school. Their son, Frank (Nick Stahl), is thinking about going to college, while enjoying a summer fling with Natalie (Marisa Tomei), estranged wife of Richard (William Mapother), son of the fish factory owner. She has two kids.

Everyone loves Frank. Well, the girls do. He's such a decent, sweet guy, one of those teenagers parents don't have to worry about, except Ruth does, because she's like that, controlling and over-protective. Matt has learnt to live with it. He keeps his thoughts to himself. He knows what sets her off and is careful not to push those buttons. On the surface, it's a good marriage.

Richard has a fierce temper. He comes into Natalie's house and busts the place up. Frank gets in the way and is hurt. He shrugs it off. Ruth is furious and talks of calling the cops. Matt and Frank try to calm her. This is not the time, nor the place. Father and son understand the importance of continuity. They don't like to make waves.

And then Richard goes too far and the mood of the movie changes and Ruth starts smoking again and Matt is seen with tears in his eyes and Natalie apologises for something she has not done and Frank doesn't go to college and the summer ends with an act of violence.

Spacek has been winning awards for her performance. So has Wilkinson. The film is up for a Best Picture Oscar, as if Hollywood is so surprised that one of theirs can produce something so thoughtful and understated.

Spacek is as good as she always is - she was more memorable in The Straight Story - but, despite the obvious reasons, this is not a demanding role, nor a particularly large one. Wilkinson was the best thing in The Full Monty and has never failed to enhance British films. Here, he masters a Maine accent and gives a lesson in the iceberg technique of keeping emotions 95 per cent below the surface, while hinting at feelings that could be dangerous.

The film is desperately slow. It is a mood piece, tasteful and subtle to a fault. The final sequence that alters the axis of the plot is barely credible and yet Todd Field directs with such delicacy and confidence, it is difficult not to be swept along. What the heart demands, Hollywood provides.

Reviewed on: 13 Feb 2002
Share this with others on...
In The Bedroom packshot
Trouble brews in small town Maine.
Amazon link

Director: Todd Field

Writer: Robert Festinger, Todd Field

Starring: Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Marisa Tomei, Nick Stahl, William Mapother, William Wise, Celia Weston, Karen Allen

Year: 2000

Runtime: 138 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Search database: