Well-told stories don”t need exaggeration or overemphasis all they need is honesty and a willingness to explore all dimensions of a problem, situation, or person. Director Todd Field delves into the human condition so deeply that one is inevitably reminded of just how complex all humans are. But he eases into the issues, allowing the audience to experience the ups and downs of his characters, feeling their pain while realizing just how natural, yet debilitating, pain is.
“In the Bedroom” tells the tragic story of the Fowler family that lives in a New England lobster-farming town in Maine. Matt and Ruth Fowler (Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek) have one son, Frank (Nick Stahl), who is spending his last summer before college at home. Frank”s parents, however, especially his mother, are a bit concerned that he will become too attached to his girlfriend, Natalie (Marisa Tomei), who has two sons and an abusive husband from whom she is not yet divorced. But they don”t let it worry them too much, hoping that it is simply a lighthearted and short-term relationship. They realize this is true when Frank soon breaks it off with Natalie, but things take a drastic turn when he comes over one afternoon to protect her from a visit by her angry husband, Richie (William Mapother). When Frank is killed by Richie, the Fowlers must deal with the anger and also the unfair judicial system, as Richie is let off on bail and is walking free around town just like everyone else.
The talent found in “In the Bedroom” lies not in its action or sequence of events, but rather the way in which the characters are portrayed. Neither the writer Robert Festinger nor Director Todd Field distort the raw emotions and feelings of the Fowler”s, rather, they tell the story with such brutal honesty that the film can be disturbing, but also very realistic. The simple reality of the situation is what makes it really hit home.
The performances of both Wilkinson and Spacek are incredible, and the dynamics of their characters” relationship and dealings with the murder of their son leave one constantly tuned in to their intensity and whirlwind of strong emotions. This film can be draining, so be prepared to watch a tragic and difficult drama. The questions that are raised by the Fowler”s reaction to their son”s death and their subsequent actions are complicated and unsettling, to say the least. “In the Bedroom” painfully explores the passion for revenge and the intense anger and blame resulting from the murder of their son.
The acting in “In the Bedroom” results in the most excellent portrayal of such a family, yet when one is mesmerized by the interactions between Spacek and Wilkinson, for example, the attention to the foundation of the story may go unnoticed. On the surface, the story may seem sufficient to carry audiences until the very end, but it seems that it is the actors, and not the premise of the film, that gauges one”s interest. The story itself is very typical a tragic murder and loved ones” subsequent passion for revenge. The story is told very well, but this doesn”t mean that it is a deep revelation, or even that is that original. By the end of the film, your impression may simply be the result of a brilliantly executed description. Call it a profound statement of an obvious fact. This leaves a mixed reaction to the film”s value, and I”m not so sure if the brilliance of a performance can overshadow the lack of merit in a story. On the other hand, the film feels compelling and interesting, so this has redeeming value.