Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday December 18, 2018 


Dr Matt Fowler (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife Ruth (Sissy Spacek) have a bright college son, Frank (Nick Stahl) who is having an affair with Natalie (Marisa Tomei), a young mother of two. But Natalie's estranged husband, Richard (William Mapother) continues to stalk her. Matt and Ruth disapprove of the relationship but are powerless to stop Frank. When Richard confronts Frank, things get out hand and tragedy strikes, drawing Matt and Ruth into a whirlpool of emotions, guilt, recriminations and desperation.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Deservedly acclaimed performances, especially from Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson, make this a gem of an actors’ workshop. Silences, nuances and minute expressions reveal intensity and gut wrenching seething beneath the surface. While this provides exceptional displays of intense realism in the context of a profound domestic drama, the film’s drawn out structure and padded development set up expectations that the film doesn’t deliver. The majority of the film plays like a psychological drama, but the film is actually a thriller. Of sorts. We are led to expect a development that will surprise us with its haunting intensity and novelty, but the story treads a more predictable path. Had I read the book, I might have been better prepared for that, and enjoyed the journey more. Not that I don’t admire the film; it is full of splendid moments, exceptional acting and marvellous technical/creative elements. We get a few clues to Todd Field’s mindset from the production notes to the film, in which talks of his long admiration for the story’s original writer, Andre Dubus, who died on Field’s birthday in 1999 – by then a friend. “He rejected the postmodernist cynicism of his contemporaries in favour of a realistic confrontation of timeless moral problems,” writes Field. He goes on to talk about Dubus in a sentimental sort of way, and it’s a clue to the tone of the film. Even the credits look like the work of a sentimental artist. The awe and respect with which Field has directed this adaptation of Dubus’ work has in some way stilted it. But it’s not ruined. There is a sincere exploration of the drama that engulfs this elderly couple that has echoes in some great, memorable movies, ranging from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf to The Ice Storm.

Review by Louise Keller:
There are many truths in Todd Field's tense and powerful drama, In The Bedroom. It's a little like life - you really don't know where it's going to lead. An insight into a marriage, the relationship with an only son, coping with anger, grief and being powerless; this is a film that tackles complex and tough issues. And there are no easy answers, but a sharp realisation of the unpredictable nature of our actions and responses to situations out of our control. In The Bedroom grapples with ordinary, decent people whose lives are flung out of control. Field's script is concise and eloquent, capturing the essence of the characters' nuances and foibles. What happens to a married couple when a tragedy impacts on their life? Does it draw them closer or push them apart? Do the comfortable silences they once shared become brittle, empty spaces or can they find a bridge? Wonderful performances from Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson as Ruth and Matt bring this married couple to life, and there's one memorable scene that presents a potent, pivotal moment, when hurtful truths are flung like poisoned arrows. Blame and baggage that has accumulated over years, rears its destructive head. We learn most about the two central characters by their response to others; the mood at the regular poker game, the need to share emotions with everyone except the one who really matters, the brave outer face. It may not have the dramatic arc of the recent thriller The Deep End, but there are parallels. All the performances are excellent – Marisa Tomei, poignant as Natalie, and I especially enjoyed William Wise as Matt's sympathetic best friend Willis whose sincerity is a beacon of light and William Mapother's terrifyingly manic Richard. Like the title, this is a subtle film, from the detailed production design to Thomas Newman's intermittent and often unexpected music. A searing exploration of relationships at their darkest point, In The Bedroom is not a film you'll easily forget. Some may find its impact too confronting to bear.

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1


CAST: Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson, Nick Stahl, William Mapother, William Wise, Marisa Tomei

DIRECTOR: Todd Field

PRODUCERS: Graham Leader, Ross Katz, Todd Field

SCRIPT: Rob Festinger, Todd Field (story Andre Dubus)


EDITOR: Frank Reynolds

MUSIC: Thomas Newton

SETS: Shannon Hart

RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 17, 2002


VIDEO RELEASE: August 21, 2002

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2018