The Review/Short Read/

Hump Day Movie: In The Bedroom

This week, Rob Kraszewski recommends Todd Field's bombastic family drama

Jul 6, 2016

On Friday, July 8, TIFF Bell Lightbox will screen Brian De Palma's 1976 masterpiece Carrie, a film which legitimately made me worried to attend my own prom. (I 100 per cent went though, okay? I totally didn't just spend the evening listening to Dashboard Confessional and feeling feelings. Whatever, you guys, it's fine.) Luckily, we had few telekinetically-inclined students at my high school, so nary a drop of pig's blood was spilled, and I came out relatively unscathed. This is unlike (spoiler alert!) the schoolmates of the titular character in the film, played impressively by Sissy Spacek, encapsulating the twin power and horror of youth. (For another shot of Spacek, you can also check out a screening of Terrence Mallick's Badlands, screening at TIFF on July 12.)

For another nuanced, yet diametrically different, Spacek performance, I recommend that you check out Todd Fields' 2001 stunning drama, In The Bedroom. Sissy Spacek and the incomparable Tom Wilkinson play Ruth and Matt Fowler, upstanding members of their New England community. They are parents to their architecture student son, Frank (Nick Stahl). Frank is home from school for the summer, and desperately in love with Natalie (Marisa Tomei). She's an older local woman, separated from her abusive husband, Richard (played by William Mapother, a.k.a. that creepy guy from Lost). Frank considers delaying his return to his studies to stay with Natalie. When Richard begins harassing Natalie, tensions begin to build, and a palpable sense of dream permeates the film. Richard eventually murders young Frank, and Ruth and Matt are left to pick up the pieces of their broken lives.

In their son's absence, Ruth and Matt have lost the best thing versions of themselves. As Richard's sentence is drastically shortened, due to a charge of manslaughter, they rage at the system, and then against each other, not sure where to direct their righteous anger. Spacek's tour de force performance takes the viewer to the depth of despair and the highest peak of molten rage. The film becomes a masterclass in grief. How do Matt and Ruth begin again, and should they? Is there any way to recover from the violent theft of their child's life? How far can one go to right a wrong?

The beauty of In The Bedroom is its stunning use of silence. As Ruth quietly stares out the window, as Matt looks out from behind the wheel of his car, his face illuminated by blood-red brake lights, we know that a dam is ready to burst, and when it does, the consequences will be far reaching. The extraordinary Spacek and Wilkinson go from screaming to deep, meaningful silence, as director Todd Field conducts a symphony of parental anguish and dread. The final beat of the film is the absence of a response to an innocuous question. It thunders in its silence, and will remain with you for days.

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