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In The Bedroom
cast: Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson, Marisa Tomei, Nick Stahl, and William Mapother

producer and director: Todd Field

124 minutes (15) 2001
Miramax VHS rental
[released 4 November]

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Robin Landry
Watching In The Bedroom is like running a marathon, you wonder if you can finish, it hurts like hell, but once it's done, you're glad you did it. Wrenchingly emotional, the film squeezes every emotion out of you until you're ready for any senseless comedy to come your way.
   Any parent can identify with the pain of losing a child but to do so in such a senseless way as happens here, it's no wonder Matt (Tom Wilkinson) and Ruth Fowler (Sissy Spacek) fall apart. 'If onlys' are practically shouted in the polite silence as the parents of Frank Fowler (Nick Stahl) try to deal with the aftermath of his death. Ruth's grief makes it seem as if she'll shatter if she doesn't keep a tight grip on her self-control. Matt in his confused way can't understand how such a thing could have happened. In the end, Matt awakens to the truth and we're shocked at what happens next.
   The movie opens with the sight of the tragic young couple in love. Marisa Tomei who plays Natalie Strout, Frank's love interest is older than her college boyfriend by at least ten years but it's not physically that we see the age difference but in the knowing looks she gives Frank. A kind of tired resignation comes over her as she tries to tell her young lover that life never works out to the happily ever after like it does in books and movies. While Ruth denies that she doesn't like Natalie we know she does and it's because Ruth knows as only a mother can, that her son is about to end up in a disastrous situation, though Ruth can't begin to guess how bad it's about to get. She tries to warn her son, but he refuses to listen. Ruth tries to warn her husband but Matt's just as intrigued with his son's new girlfriend as his son is. In a way, both men are under the spell of a beautiful woman, and neither can find the strength to pull away.
   After their son's murder, Ruth can't find it in her heart to forgive Natalie. As a woman, Ruth knows that Natalie can see the kind trouble that her husband (William Mapother, Tom Cruise's cousin) will cause. No one knows her ex-husband's abusive nature better, and yet Natalie needs someone to care for her and her two young boys so badly, that she allows Frank to fall in love with her when in her heart Natalie knows she's ruining the young man's life.
   Director (Todd Field, also an actor in Eyes Wide Shut) focuses on the marriage of Ruth and Matt Fowler, but I'm not so sure the story isn't really about a woman using her charms to manipulate the men in her life, all of them including her boys and Matt Fowler, to get what she wants. In the end Ruth understands but is accused of being unforgiving for trying to tell the truth. In The Bedroom is rated R for violence in USA, yet I think it's the emotional violence that makes this movie unfit for anyone not old enough to understand that life is always about layers and rarely about what we see on the surface.