In the Bedroom Review

Although the title may suggest otherwise, it actually refers to a lobster fishing term: when an adult lobster is caught in a trap, it is called 'in the bedroom'. A trap is a claustrophobic place, somewhere where hope struggles to remain alive, and soon the inhabitants may just give in and sentence themselves to the inevitable.

Set on the coast of Maine, at the end of a brief and fleeting summer, Todd Field's directorial debut begins with young love in blossom – Frank (Nick Stahl) and Natalie (Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei) gallivant in a field, leaving their troubles behind. Their escapism is only brief, as soon they have to return to their normal lives: and the troubles they bring. Frank is working as a fisherman, before heading to university, and his local doctor father, Matt (Tom Wilkinson), lends a helping hand to his much-loved son. Frank's mother, Ruth (Sissy Spacek), is a school teacher who is struggling to come to terms with her son's relationship with Natalie, especially considering she is a single parent, and her ex-husband is always interfering.

It is immediately evident that ex-husband Richard (William Mapother) is a man scorned; and soon his jealously reaches breaking point. Clearly unwanted by Natalie, bystander Frank cannot help but continue as best he can with her, without thinking through the effects. Soon tragedy will strike, and the remnants of this summer will keep the wound raw…

Based on a story by the late Andre Dubas and directed by an actor turned writer/director, In the Bedroom is a bleak and unsettling look at transition – the effect of change, and not necessarily the change itself. The catalyst happens soon into the film, and instead of focusing on why or how, we instead focus on what…what will happen next to the Fowlers, what will Natalie's reaction be?

This sort of character-driven drama is one of my favourite genres; I have a soft spot in my cinematic heart for such a tale that deals with realistic human issues with care and attention. Instead of being layered with style and punch, Field is determined to paint the story around the characters – letting them breathe, focusing gratuitously on their thoughts and pain. And yes, this film is painful.

The acting is superb: every performance is rounded and developed, ranging from Oscar-nominated Wilkinson and Spacek to unknown at the time Stahl's portrayal of Frank. Although he may have gone onto the world of the popcorn action flick (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines), his visible talent in this is much more worthy of a place in his CV. Marisa Tomei also deserves a special mention, and although she may pick some bad roles (The Guru, for example), she is the quintessential single mother: drawn, torn between commitments, and then fate unfairly delivers her a bad hand again.

Symbolic and thoroughly engaging, In the Bedroom is a truly special film; when I first witnessed it in the cinema back in 2001, and then later on DVD, I was mesmerised from start to finish. It may be the polar opposite of lighthearted entertainment, but there is nothing better than indulging in truly captivating cinema once in a while, instead of being constantly harassed by loud, brash, senseless and meaningless Hollywood action fare.

The Disc
Considering the film was nominated for five Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actor – Tom Wilkinson, Best Actress – Sissy Spacek, Best Supporting Actress – Marisa Tomei, Best Adapted Screenplay), one would expect that Buena Vista would serve In the Bedroom up on a superb DVD. Read on to find out if that is indeed the case…

The menus are elegantly designed, yet static, and easy to navigate.

Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, In the Bedroom looks wonderful – the vibrant Maine colours are excellently defined, with no visible edge enhancement or bleeding. Crisp and clear throughout, I couldn’t spot any other artefacts, and although not quite sharp or spectacular enough to be deemed reference quality, it certainly isn’t far off.

Being a dialogue-driven film, bombastic audio isn't necessary, and although the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack does its job fine, it does lack the surround and subwoofer action that defines a very good mix. Only the odd rear-channel effect is thrown in, and although the music is ambient and the dialogue is crisp, I can't say it is as good as most other soundtracks. On the plus side, it isn't sorely missed, due to the aforementioned nature of the film.

A real shame here: a measly theatrical trailer is the only additional material on the disc, which, considering the success of the film is very irritating.

In the Bedroom is a superb, unflinching look at loss and tragedy; a film that can be watched multiple times and still dazzle. Even though it is relatively unknown (Oscar nominations aside), I heartily recommend that you check this out as soon as possible. Refreshing and rewarding, the only disappointment is the practically inexistent extras provided on the disc by Buena Vista. Worth a rental definitely, but probably only people who absolutely love the film (like me) will decide to add it permanently to their collection.

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