‘In the Bedroom’ Bares the Human Soul Like No Other

The trap has nylon nets called ‘heads.’ Two side heads to let the lobster crawl in. And inside, what’s called a bedroom head holds the bait, and keeps him from escaping. You know the old saying: ‘Two’s company, three’s a crowd?’ Well, it’s like that. Get more than two of these in a bedroom and chances are something like that’s gonna happen.

In the Bedroom (2001, directed by Todd Field) is a film that encapsulates several things within one well-maintained tragedy. On the surface, the title refers to the “bedroom” or interior of a lobster trap. When catching them, no more than two lobsters can be held in the trap compartment. If a third is added, they start to become violent and attack one another. Tom Wilkinson’s character, Dr. Matt. Fowler, describes this in a fishing boat off the coast of Maine. This description becomes a metaphor for actual violence as well as emotional chaos between the characters.

After a looked-down-upon love affair between Fowler’s son Frank (Nick Stahl) and Natalie (Marisa Tomei) ends in an unexpected, horrendous twist, he and his wife Ruth (Sissy Spacek) struggle against and with each other to come to terms with everything that has happened and the future of their family. The performances are all unbelievably good and heartfelt. The pacing is slow at times, but completely engaging all the same. It’s a movie that should take its time in order to unravel very carefully, which it does.

What sounds and looks like an intimate movie about love and relationships becomes something much more complex and disturbingly honest. It bares the human soul at its most conflicted, its most determined, its best, and its worst. The thing about this movie is that as dark as it may be, once its over, you never expected it to take you on the journey that it eventually did. Even though it came out ten years ago, the journey is worth experiencing again and again. All other tragic dramas should take note.

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