s film rates: A*
With movies like In the Bedroom, you have to ask yourself why you go to movies to begin with.
If you are interested and satisfied purely on dramatic content without concern for how you feel when you walk out of the theater, then this one's for you.
In the Bedroom is the story of an average family. It's about the struggles of bereavement and what it takes to come to some sense of peace after losing someone dear to a violent death.
What's really extraordinary about this film is the way it draws you in.
Sissy Spacek's performance as Ruth Fowler, a school choir teacher and wife of doctor, Matt Fowler (Tom Wilkinson), is absolutely engrossing.
This couple and their daily routines, conversations and interactions are so typical that the line where the silver screen ends and the real world begins becomes harder and harder to discern.
Even the people who play the various roles are so totally average in appearance and completely `normal' in their performance, that it's hard to tell them from folks you meet on the street. And, that's exactly why this movie is so disturbing.
Ruth and Matt are the parents of college-age Frank. Frank is in a relationship with a slightly older married with children, Marisa Tomei.
Although they can't help but see the difficulties presented by Frank's romantic relationship, Ruth and Matt try hard to support their son.
They invite Natalie and her two young children to family gatherings, and make an effort to include them in on just about everything. Matt even sets up the swing set so that the kids have something to do when they visit.
Natalie isn't quite divorced. Her husband has moved out of the house, but he hasn't relinquished his place at the head of the table. The more we get to know him, the less we like him - and the more concerned we are for Frank.
Just as it looks like Frank is going to break off the relationship and go back to college, like we know he should, disaster strikes.
The second half of In the Bedroom is all about grief. It so aptly depicts the difference between men grieving and women grieving.
It deftly points out the lingering sense of loss that's hard to overcome, especially when there's no one left to fill the gap. In fact, although it's certainly not overdone, it's so real, you can't help but feel the melancholy as it oozes off of the screen.
At the end of this film, Matt has just returned from a long night out in the woods where he's made some very serious decisions with lasting repercussions.
Ruth has been waiting up for him ... chain smoking in bed. After Matt collapses into bed with a stunned look on his face, unable to utter a word to Ruth, she jumps out of bed saying, "You must be hungry," and off she dashes to make breakfast. Matt just lays there stunned.
The final scene is of the breeze blowing in from a window along the stairway, with Sissy Spacek's voice saying, "Do you want coffee, Matt?" The camera pans out to show another average morning in Maine. And, the credits role.
But, the impact that the movie has on everyone in the theater, leaves them stunned, just like Matt.
Nobody quite knows what to do, or how to make their way back to `reality' _ which is my point exactly.
This film is so masterfully constructed, that anyone who sees it is left feeling the full impact of every action taken by the people in the film, as if they owned it themselves.
* Consequently, sitting through In the Bedroom really isn't a very pleasant experience.
**** Rated R for some violence and language