In the Bedroom (2001), a hushed portrait of love, loss, and vengeance in a sleepy New England backwater, is a harrowing drama starring Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson as parents who stop communicating after the violent death of their only son.
The directing debut of actor Todd Field (he played the pianist in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut) favors the performances and they are among the best in modern American cinema. Spacek is steely and hard under her milky blue eyes, Wilkinson jovial and easy-going on the outside but walled up inside, and Marisa Tomei (the “older woman” girlfriend of their murdered son) has the puffy look of a woman crying her grief away.
Field’s direction creates a mood of inexpressive sadness that blankets their lives. Words become meaningless. Their loss and loneliness is expressed almost solely through the way the old married couple shares a room, how they touch each other with familiarity that brings little comfort, and the sudden awkwardness of the space between them. It’s a disappointment when the film takes a rather conventional turn in the third act, but Field remains true to his characters. There is nothing simple in their solution for closure, and no peace to be found in vengeance.
It’s based on the story “Killings” by Andre Dubus and costars Nick Stahl, William Mapother, and Karen Allen.
In the Bedroom was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and acting nominations for Spacek, Wilkinson, and Tomei. It won the Film Independent Spirit Awards and New York Film Critics Circle Awards for best first feature and for Spacek and Wilkinson, who also received nominations from the BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild. Director Todd Field went on to direct the Oscar-nominated dramas Little Children and Tár.