In The Bedroom


Directed by: Todd Field
Written by:Robert Festinger, Todd Field
Starring: Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Nick Stahl, Marisa Tomei, William Mapother
Released: January 31, 2002
Grade: A

In the quiet town of Camden, Matt Fowler (Wilkinson) has his own doctor’s practice.  His wife, Ruth (Spacek), is a high school teacher who also orchestrates the school’s choir.  They have a single son, Frank (Stahl), who’s returned home for the summer having just finished his first year at college.  Since being back, he’s met and is partaking in a “summer fling” with Natalie Strout (Tomei), a much older married woman with two kids.  She’s separated from her husband, Richard (Mapother), who has reappeared on the scene and wants her back.  There’s only room for two in the bedroom.

These are ordinary people which makes what happens to them all the more extraordinary.  What transpires, I cannot tell you.  In a sudden twist, a tragedy strikes the Fowler tragedy.  Then, just when you come to grips with the changed scenario, a second twist takes the film on a tangent much removed from the way it started.

As the parents, Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek deliver unbelievable performances.  Spacek now has a trophy cabinet full of awards (including a Golden Globe) but Wilkinson is equally as good and hopefully will receive admirable acclaim before the award season winds down in March.  They play a long married couple for whom the communication process has completely broken down.  They still love each other but there’s too much water under the bridge and something has to give.

Marisa Tomei is an easy target amongst film buffs.  Many consider her the worst Oscar winner in history (she won for My Cousin Vinny) and that presenter Jack Palance read her name by mistake on the award podium.  After almost a decade in the wilderness, she returns with a strong role and perhaps the urban legend can be put to rest with another Oscar nomination when announced in two weeks.

These characters are real which is why the film is so passionate and moving.  Expecting another strong Thomas Newman score, I was shocked to see such minimal music in the film.  Aside from the opening and closing credits, the film has a very quiet backdrop and with many scenes containing little dialogue, the silence is literally deafening.  It makes an awkward situation even more awkward and some scenes were very difficult to watch.

Actor turned director Todd Field has broken out with beautifully subtle direction.  He doesn’t fall victim to Hollywood commercialism and is happy not to rush the story or use familiar techniques.  I must be careful not to reveal too much but the story doesn’t preach the lessons it tells.  It’s a simple story and it’s up to you to decide whether right or wrong has been done.

In The Bedroom arrives in Australian cinemas during peak award season and deserves to be seen by any serious filmgoer.  It’s a reinvigorating look at how movies can have value and leave you thinking emotionally.  With Mulholland Drive also released this week, it’s a pleasant change from the standard “popcorn and coke” flick.  So what are you waiting for?