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In the Bedroom (December 21/01)

Riveting and compelling, In The Bedroom presents a happy family torn apart by tragedy. It's not a novel concept, but director Todd Field has managed to take a melodramatic storyline and transform it into a wholly original and fascinating tale.

As the movie opens, we see a young couple frolicking in a field. As played by Nick Stahl and Marisa Tomei, their difference in age is immediately noticeable but their love for one another is equally palpable. We soon learn that their relationship is frowned upon not just by her ex-husband (played by Tom Cruise's cousin, William Mapother), but by his parents, Ruth and Matt (Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson). Matt has an easy-going attitude about the whole thing, while Ruth takes a decidedly more direct approach at expressing her displeasure. However, when tragedy strikes, the entire problem is rendered moot and the film becomes more about how different people react in the face of a sudden catastrophe.

In The Bedroom is one of those rare films that so vividly paints a picture of a community, that afterwards you feel as though you've been there (John Sayles' Limbo is another good example of this). Set in a small Maine town, the movie takes its time unfolding and presents the various facets of East-coast life. Little things like a weekly card game between crusty seamen and an outdoor barbecue where everyone's invited help give the film an air of authenticity that's a rarity these days. Field, making his feature-length directorial debut, shows remarkable ability for someone so new to the field - rarely offering up an ineffectual scene or lingering too long on any given subject.

But this is a movie that belongs to the actors. From the featured players to the smallest extras, Field has filled this world with performers that genuinely seem as though they belong there. Spacek, who's sure to garner an Oscar nomination, is pitch-perfect as a woman used to having things her way until she's rendered emotionally paralyzed. Ruth's initial shock simmers at a low boil, until she finally can't hold it in any longer. As her husband, Wilkinson gives the best performance in the movie. Initially a happy-go-lucky type, he's torn apart by the tragedy that befalls his family. Unable to deal with the situation logically, he finally does the only thing that he can - to shocking results.

In The Bedroom is the sort of well-acted, well written movie we don't see enough of. Don't miss it.

out of

© David Nusair