Prayer Focus
Movie Review

In the Bedroom

MPAA Rating: R for some violence and language

Reviewed by: Denny Wayman and Hal Conklin
Reprinted with permission from

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Drama / Thriller
2 hr. 10 min.
Year of Release:
Marisa Tomei, Sissy Spacek and Christopher Adams in “In The Bedroom”

Starring: Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson, Nick Stahl, Marisa Tomei, William Wise | Directed by: Todd Field | Produced by: Ted Hope, John Penotti, Graham Leader, Ross Katz, Todd Field | Written by: Rob Festinger, Robert Festinger, Todd Field | Distributor: Miramax Films

There are times in our lives when we take small risks without much thought of the consequences. There are also times in our lives when we realize that small risks can mushroom into major catastrophes. “In The Bedroom” takes the viewer down this seemingly harmless path to destruction.

Every parent worries about their children as they emerge into adulthood and whether they will make wise decisions. Certainly some of that fear comes from remembering the carelessness of our own youth.

Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek in “In The Bedroom” Frank Fowler (Nick Stahl) is the 20-year-old son of Dr. Matt Fowler (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife Ruth (Sissy Spacek), all of whom live in a small New England fishing village. The Fowlers are concerned about a summer romance that Frank is having with an older woman, Natalie Strout (Marisa Tomei), who is a 31 year old divorcee still being pursued by her ex-husband, Richard (William Mapother). Richard is the son of the prosperous owner of the largest fish processing plant in town, and he doesn’t easily give up what he wants.

While a parent or counselor would see this affair as a volatile emotional cocktail with a destructive punch, through the eyes of youthful love, this is “just a summer thing. Sure there may be some hard feelings on the ex-husband’s part, but that’s a small risk to take,” Frank thinks.

It seems like a small risk to take until the ex-husband comes home one night in a rage and kills young Frank. And, while this takes the emotional consequence to depths of unbearable pain, the wound is salted when Richard is set free by the court when it is determined that Frank was killed by accident. What begins as a summer fling ends in a lifetime of regret.

It is the aftermath of this tragedy that comprises the depth of the story. And it is here that the story could seek redemption, but instead descends into hell.

Through the suppressed pain of Matt and Ruth Fowler, we feel the anger that lies beneath the surface from the loss of their only child and the failure of justice to be served. But instead of the Fowlers’ communicating what could have led to their healing, the tragedy leads to a lifetime of emotional conflict when Matt decides to take justice into his own hands.

While it might be hard for some people to understand the biblical rationale for forgiveness, there is little evidence that retribution ever gives one a sense of peace. “In The Bedroom” is not the story of love triumphing over tragedy, but rather of the consequences that come from the absence of any real or transcendent love at all.

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—Based on the novel “Killings”, “In the Bedroom” is a tightly-knit film that plays out like a greek tragedy. The script is rife with symbolism and foils (eg: The spawning female lobster gets away with mutilating the male, a type of the drama that was to come later on in the movie—the destructive power of a possessive mother/wife.) The building of tensions is meticulous and at the end the characters are crushed by their destructive choices. Admittedly, the acting was sometimes a little shallow, (and Spacek can’t direct a choir to save her life!), but this, coupled with the lack of music enhancement, only added to the stunning reality of this movie. I strongly disagree with the main reviewers stance. a movie need not have a Disney ending in order for it to have redemptive value. This one makes a highly-valid point in an age of gratuitous and over-abundant depictions of killings, shootings and fist fights: violence begets violence. Recommended only for mature audience.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—Joel, age 25
Positive—One of the best films of the year! A great character study with excellent performances. Very disturbing, but worth a trip to the theatre. Sissy Spacek gives a wonderful performance! Go see it!
My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—Adam, age 19
Positive—In the Bedroom is a wonderfully difficult portrait of what happens when we let grief, bitterness, and rage reign unchecked in our lives. It does not have a happy evening, but is so incredibly true to life. The murder that the couple undertakes is not glorified and does not bring peace to the family, but is merely a whitewash over their pain. I wholeheartedly recommend this film. Why do we, as Christians, seem to think that everything must have a happy ending? Throughout the Bible there are stories which are tragic and show, ultimately, man’s depravity and need for God. That is what In the Bedroom shows us as well.
My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—Josh Hornbeck, age 24
Positive—People just don’t get it! This movie is a perfect example of a realistic family tragedy. If someone killed someone you loved, how many of us could forgive right away? People say this movie has no Christian morals, but still, you must think, this movie isn’t here to be a Sunday school lesson, it’s here to show you what someone might do if a horrible situation like the one in the movie arises. The film, while layered with moderate profanity and two scenes of violence, beautifully crafts a tale that one who is patient enough to follow will come away with riveted. Some will say that this movie is boring… those are the same people who say that “Dude Where’s My Car” is a great movie. And I don’t want to give anything away, but for those of you who have seen the film and said it wasn’t good, didn’t you catch Tom Wilkison’s final line? That should sum it up for you. Todd Field the director led these talented actors on a tour-de-force performance that if patient, will wrap you up and not let you down…
My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—Teen, age 18
Negative—This slow moving, vengeful movie did not portray a family who was hurt or devastated by murder, but instead one who consciously plotted and murdered as well. I was shocked and totally disgusted that such well known actors would buy into this theory. Surely, their hearts were ripped out by their son’s murder. Yet, this eye for an eye mentality only perpetuates evil, instead of giving strength and courage to heal and forgive. Richard murdered in a fit of rage that was NOT premeditated although certainly predictable. But Ruth and Matt and his accomplish were definitely premeditated. I believe their crime was far worse than the other. It is a sad state of affairs that this movie will probably be nominated and receive some Academy Awards. But I recommend that no one else goes to see it.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 4]
—Eileen Osinski, age 56
Negative—I agree with the review’s grading for this movie, although he is in error on one point. Marisa Tomei’s character is pursued by her husband, not ex-husband. That is essential to the plot. After the rave secular reviews, I expected something very subtle and profound. Instead, this is a movie that is thematically unresolved. Is a killing revenge or justice, a murder or execution? Unfortunately, the answers are hindered by the inadequate development of characters. Disturbing and upsetting. Not recommended at all.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3]
Halyna Barannik, age 56
…8 F-words, 5 scatological terms, 5 sexual references, 4 anatomical terms, 10 mild obscenities, 18 religious profanities or exclamations…