"In the Bedroom" (IMDb listing), from writer/director Todd Field, is a moving drama about family tragedy and the choices that must be made to overcome the resulting emotional turmoil. A single act of impulsive brutality destroys the lives of middle-aged couple Ruth and Matt Fowler (played by Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkensen). How they come to terms with this anguish is the crux of this story.
Frank Fowler (Nick Stahl) is a handsome young grad student with an easy, amiable smile, and an innate talent for architectural design. Against his overbearing mother's wishes, Frank continues a "summer fling" with an older woman, Natalie Strout (Marisa Tomei). Natalie is easily 10 years older than Frank, with 2 children, and she is going through a messy divorce. Unfortunately for Frank, Natalie's estranged husband Richard Strout (William Maphother) is under the impression that she will give him another chance. Richard, whose father owns the Strout fishery empire in the area, cannot hide his hatred and jealousy of Frank. Richard's tensed, hulking posture and murderous cold stares are directed at Frank as he attempts to rekindle his faltering romance with Natalie. Natalie, however, wants nothing to do with the abusive and obviously spoiled Richard. A heated moment of furious passion extinguishes any hope of the unlikely couple's romance, and forever shatters the elder Fowlers' once happy existence.
Dr. and Mrs. Fowler attempt to pick up the pieces of their life in the sleepy fishing town of Camden, Maine, but their efforts are thwarted at every turn. The townspeople's reverence of the Strout family name makes it incredibly hard for the Fowler's to bring Richard to justice. Ruth takes out her rage on her husband. Meanwhile, Matt is haunted by "STROUT" billboards and by the accounts of Richard walking the streets of Camden, free on bail, and as unapologetic as ever. Matt's helplessness slowly becomes a cold, calculated rage.
"In the Bedroom" is a bit ponderous at times, and the climax is fairly predictable. However, director Field's steady, careful pacing helps to build up the tension needed to create an awesome sense of apprehension for the ultimate actions of the benign Dr. Fowler. "In the Bedroom" is packed with talented actors who arguably give their best performances to date. Spacek and Wilkenson bring out a level of parental suffering that tears at your heart. Tomei's portrayal of Natalie is equally mournful, as she not only must deal with her lover's loss, but the incredible amount of guilt she feels for the Fowlers' suffering. "In the Bedroom" is definitely not feel-good Saturday matinee fare, but the beautifully captured images of small-town life, and the heartrending performances will haunt the most jaded moviegoer long after the credits have rolled.
Filmfodder Grade: B+