Love & Loss in Todd Field’s “In the Bedroom”

In the Bedroom is a rare example of one of those movies that people will stumble upon years later and it manages to hold its own still. WHile there are those that may not appreciate the time that the movie takes to unfold, there is a certain artistry in what the audience is shown and what the audience is not shown. More than that, it makes a powerful case for the state of what independent cinema has become. It’s steady decay into something just as profitable as any Hollywood project, as 500 Days of SUmmer proved, is truly a death worth mourning. Still, in re-visiting In the Bedroom it’s impossible not to be filled with hope for the artistry of it, as well as despair for the characters that inhabit it.

One of the things that so firmly secures this project as worth noticing is in the imagery of it alone. There are beautiful shots that make the movie stand out as a powerful example of the beauty of the moving image. However, as odd as it may sound, there’s an indescribable beauty added to the majestic New England coast when the pictures are so richly invested with meaning. The landscape and the feel of the town is so important to the credibility of the picture. Director Todd Field holds a sort of reverence for the small New England town, while enriching it with everyday life details. What results is the unthinkable happening in “anywhere, USA.” But just as the universality of the story is important, it’s even more crucial to see that it’s not happening anywhere. It’s happening here, and it’s happening to these people.

After all, at it’s heart, that’s what In the Bedroom is: a character piece. While the director allows the audience to share in the grief of Matt (Tom Wilkinson) and Ruth (Sissy Spacek), it is always their burden. Sure, there are some heartbreaking moments, but at the end of the day, Matt and Ruth are faced with the reality of the situation and what they’ve done to contribute to their own son’s death at the hands of another man. It’s an examination of what people will do and can do for love and the difference between them. This type of character study could easily be forgotten amidst a myriad of other projects about grief and the loss of a loved one. What makes this movie powerful is not the subject matter, but the way that it unfolds and the performances of those involved in it.

Wilkinson and Spacek are tragic as the aging married couple who lose their son. It isn’t enough that they lose him, but it’s about coming to terms living with each other without him. In a way, each of them blames the other for what happened to him, but deep down, both are aware of the role they played. This type of deconstruction of their marriage is slow and deliberate. The emotional toll it takes on the audience is one of the most unforgettable parts. While both were nominated for the Academy Award for their roles in the film, neither won that year, which is a shame that won’t soon be forgotten. They drive forward Todd Field’s character study, culminating in a chilling ending that truly demonstrates what people are capable of doing for love.

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