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Review: An everyday story told by a cunning director

IN THE BEDROOM is a film you should probably not see on a Friday night before going out with your friends. You'll likely need some time alone for yourself afterwards, as the film touches its viewers deep. It's a remarkable story, even more so given that it is a debut.
Director Todd Field, an acclaimed actor (Eyes Wide Shut), proves that he also can handle standing behind a camera. He has also been very fortunate with the cast choice, which includes no over-watched Hollywood faces.
The Fowler family lives in a small town on the coast of Maine. Their son Frank (Nick Stahl) is spending his last summer there before going on to university, but becomes involved in an affair with Natalie (Marisa Tomei), an older woman with two children who is getting divorced.


FRANK and Natalie in a crowded bedroom.
photo: Courtesy of Continental Film

In the Bedroom

Running time: 130 min
Starring: Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Nick Stahl, Marisa Tomei
Directed by: Todd Field
Rating: 8 out of 10

IN THE BEDROOM is a film you should probably not see on a Friday night before going out with your friends. You'll likely need some time alone for yourself afterwards, as the film touches its viewers deep. It's a remarkable story, even more so given that it is a debut.

Director Todd Field, an acclaimed actor (Eyes Wide Shut), proves that he also can handle standing behind a camera. He has also been very fortunate with the cast choice, which includes no over-watched Hollywood faces.

The Fowler family lives in a small town on the coast of Maine. Their son Frank (Nick Stahl) is spending his last summer there before going on to university, but becomes involved in an affair with Natalie (Marisa Tomei), an older woman with two children who is getting divorced.

Frank's mother (Sissy Spacek) does not approve of her son's new relationship. Moreover, she is afraid (as mothers usually are) that Frank might give up his study plans and remain in their hometown to earn his living as a fisherman. Frank's father, played by Tom Wilkinson, is not pleased either, but decides to treat his son as an adult and let him do things his own way.

The situation gets really tense when Natalie's ex-husband comes back to claim a place in her life, thus becoming the third person "in the bedroom". The metaphor is taken from the jargon of local fishermen, who call the cages they use to catch lobsters "bedrooms", and say you can only have two lobsters in a "bedroom" at once, or the sea-creatures will end up hurting one another.

While the story of an illicit couple and a jealous ex-husband may sound trite, Todd Field uses its very simplicity in a subtle way. Where other directors might have run out of breath half way through a feature length film, Field is only beginning his narration. The tale, while simple, has an unpredictable climax.

There are many surprising moments in the film, but the undisputed highlight is the scene where Frank's parents argue. The kitchen turns into a theatre stage, and after a scene filled with a tortured silence, they fire words filled with hatred at each other. You wish they would stop, because it hurts to listen.

In the Bedroom is a story that probably happens every day. The characters are real people, neither extremely intelligent nor exceedingly beautiful. Thus, the main feeling the movie evokes in the viewer is compassion. We might not approve of the father's radical actions, but deep inside we understand his anger. What turns this everyday story into a drama is not the murder itself, but rather the inevitable questions it poses: What would you have done if you were the parent of the victim? Can one justify crime with love?

With five Academy Award nominations (best picture, actor, actress, supporting actress and adapted screenplay) you wonder why neither the filmmakers nor the actors were bestowed with an Oscar for their exceptional work. One answer is that the film did fit this year's (politically correct) decisions of the Oscar jury. Another is that it was just too sophisticated a treatment of a common theme for the taste of most critics.

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