IN THE BEDROOM—-superior drama from 2001 was Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Actor (Tom Wilkinson), Actress (Sissy Spacek), Supporting Actress (Marisa Tomei) and Screenplay (by its director, Todd Field, with Robert Festinger). The tiny budgeted ($1,700,000), 131-minute piece drew critical raves and a gratifying audience response by grossing $43,400,000.
A seemingly happy and successful middle-aged couple in a small Maine coastal town have mixed feelings when their college-bound son falls for an older woman who has a jealous ex-husband. There may be romance in the salt-scented summer air, but underneath there is a sniff of menace. Outlining the plot any more would do this a disservice: suffice to say it’s an intimate study in hope, grief, blame, reconciliation and redress over the sort of loss all of us dread and too many experience.
Measured and quiet, it’s flawlessly acted under exquisitely observant direction from Field. It was his first feature, and to date he’s only done one more (Little Children, in 2006). He and cinematographer Antonio Calvache capture to a tee a lived-in sense of locale and abode (shot mostly in the towns of Belfast and Camden, where Peyton Place was filmed back in 1957), and the cast limn the mood of sustained tension-under-wraps to such a taut degree that upon resolution it lingers in the air like gunsmoke.
Master-class work from the justifiably nominated trio, ditto from Nick Stahl as the understandingly enamored son and William Mapother, a smirk too close to real for comfort as the wretch husband. The ‘slap scene’ took fifteen takes, with Field eventually using the first one. That sudden, startling rap on a shocked cheek echoes, in a story where the agonized silences are deafening.
With William Wise, Celia Weston and Karen Allen.