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