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In the Bedroom

In the Bedroom (2001)
 Reviewed 2002-02-17: If two male lobsters are caught in the same lobster trap, "in the bedroom," so to speak, they fight it out for dominance. We learn this on the lobster boat at the beginning of In the Bedroom, but it's also played out between Frank (Nick Stahl), a college boy who's dating an older mother of two children (Marisa Tomei), and her estranged and jealous husband (William Mapother). "It's just a summer thing," Frank reassures his parents, but we know it's more than that. So does his girlfriend's husband, scion of this seaside Maine town's commercial fishing family. Frank's parents don't believe it, but his father (Tom Wilkinson, who I remember from Shakespeare In Love), the town doctor, approves. His mother (Sissy Spacek, who I haven't seen since Carrie), the school's choral director, disapproves.

Frank's parents don't communicate much, anyway, so when tragedy happens, they deal with it separately and somewhat neurotically. That's because "in the bedroom" is also where we exchange secrets or withhold them; where we learn the truth from each other or conceal it; where we fight and where we make up. By now we know that In the Bedroom isn't going to be about the younger couple.

Directed to build slowly by Todd Field (who co-wrote the screenplay), the film even ends in the bedroom, as slowly and quietly as it starts. Spacek and Wilkinson are opposites in acting style and perfect together. There is, finally, a sort of small-town justice meted out; it's emotionally satisfying because here the culpability is clear. But it's not a film about justice done or denied. It's about a couple's relationship bottoming out before it can rebuild; about how couples deal better with tragedy when they face it together than by facing it alone.

Agree? Disagree? Tell me!

Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance reviewer.