In the Bedroom

January 11th, 2002


In the Bedroom

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Still of Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson in In the BedroomStill of Marisa Tomei in In the BedroomStill of Sissy Spacek in In the BedroomStill of Sissy Spacek and Marisa Tomei in In the BedroomStill of Sissy Spacek and Nick Stahl in In the BedroomStill of Marisa Tomei and Tom Wilkinson in In the Bedroom

A New England couple's college-aged son dates an older woman with two small children and an unwelcome ex-husband. Then something terrible occurs in this wrenching, emotional drama.

Release Year: 2001

Rating: 7.5/10 (23,701 voted)

Critic's Score: 86/100

Director: Todd Field

Stars: Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Nick Stahl

The Fowlers are a normal family in Maine. Matt is the town doctor and loves to fish, his wife, Ruth, is the school's choir leader, and their son, Frank, is home from his first year of college. Frank is in love with Natalie, a young mother who isn't quite divorced yet from her ex-husband, Richard Strout, whose family runs the local cannery. It makes Richard's blood run cold to see his wife running around with another man. And soon, an unthinkable tragedy happens that will tear the Fowlers apart...

Writers: Robert Festinger, Todd Field

Tom Wilkinson - Matt Fowler
Sissy Spacek - Ruth Fowler
Nick Stahl - Frank Fowler
Marisa Tomei - Natalie Strout
William Mapother - Richard Strout
William Wise - Willis Grinnel
Celia Weston - Katie Grinnel
Karen Allen - Marla Keyes
Frank T. Wells - Henry
W. Clapham Murray - Carl
Justin Ashforth - Tim Bryson
Terry A. Burgess - District Attorney
Jonathan Walsh - Father McCasslin
Diane E. Hamlin - Davis' Assistant
Camden Munson - Jason Strout

Taglines: A young man. An older woman. Her ex-husband. Things are about to explode...


Official Website: NZZ Online - Neue Zürcher Zeitung (German) | Video DVD release Site |

Release Date: 11 January 2002

Filming Locations: Belfast, Maine, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $1,700,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $93,972 (USA) (25 November 2001) (4 Screens)

Gross: $43,368,779 (Worldwide) (12 October 2003)

Technical Specs

Runtime:  | USA: (Sundance Film Festival)

Did You Know?

Sissy Spacek decorated the house in which her character lives.

Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): The physician's mistake was thinking ending a person's life in small-town New England would not be uncovered. He may have thought their law enforcement would lack the wisdom of using a forensic-minded pathologist in the place of an ordinary coroner. At the end of the film, Matt remembered he had not worn gloves and DNA from the puncture to his index finger from being bitten by the lobster would prove his identity. Nearly every such crime contains some overlooked error that proves to incriminate the person.

Natalie: [walks up to Ruth] Oh, I was hoping we could talk.
Natalie: I wanted to tell you how truly sorry I am
[pauses again]
Natalie: and if there's ever anything I can ever do... to-to talk with you.
[long pause]
Natalie: [Ruth hits Natalie across the face, Natalie screams, and Ruth goes back to work, and Natalie walks off in shock and sadness]

User Review

something's going on in the bedroom

Rating: 9/10

9 out of 10

Watching Todd Field's feature film debut `In the Bedroom,' I could not help but be impressed by the sheer audacity of the film, by the spot-on performances, and by the many twists and turns that no critic should reveal. Yet amidst all the film's obvious strengths, there was still something missing-something to tie it all together, something to endow the film with more than just a fleeting impression.

Ironically perhaps, I was provided this missing bit of information not by the film, but by a male audience member sitting at the end of my aisle, trying to explain the point of the film in less than derogatory terms to his female companion.

`You're missing the whole point of the film,' he said. `It was all about men being controlled by women.'

No doubt he read this interpretation from someone else's review of the film (and what a sweet piece of justice it would be if that critic were a woman). It is quite possible that he was not even aware of the ramifications of what he had said. But this man's legitimacy aside, his statement has not left me since, and the film in turn has had the same luck in escaping me.

We are first introduced to Frank Fowler (Nick Stahl, `Bully') and Natalie Strout (Marisa Tomei, `My Cousin Vinny'), he a young college student with no immediate plans to settle down, she an older divorcee raising two children. They are in love, though for Frank she is little more than a `summer fling.' Meanwhile Natalie's ex-husband, Richard (William Mapother, `Mission: Impossible 2'), is unwilling to let her out of his life, and begins to be physically abusive to Frank. Frank's parents, Matt (Tom Wilkinson, `The Full Monty') and Ruth (Sissy Spacek, `The Straight Story')-both in top form here-show appropriate concern for their only son, and they intervene in this dangerous love triangle with unexpected twists and tragic results.

The film jumps about in tone from a light romantic romp to a seeming political treatise to a creepy, nocturnal thriller. Some have criticized the film for this alleged inconsistency in tone, slow pacing, and a deliberate ending. But these naysayers have overlooked the point.

Frank may not even really love Natalie, so much as he loves being controlled by her and sating his mother by being with her. Richard becomes a threat to everyone because he is unwilling to let Natalie consider him out of her life; he is a slave to her whim. The resulting tension reveals a rift between Frank's parents, and in particular, his father's actions in the end demonstrate a helpless allegiance to his wife and her command.

Field, who up until now has been primarily an actor (he was the piano player in `Eyes Wide Shut'), understands these important points but does not beat the viewer over the head with them. He presents a reality more raw and true than any other piece of film in recent memory. Yet he does so with a restraint that Hollywood seems to have forgotten. Most of the film's violence is overheard or implied, and only explicitly shown when necessary for the audience to completely understand what has happened. This allows for more subtle details, like a bridgekeeper who must run around in circles to alternate traffic between the road and the sea, to emerge as truly haunting, lasting images.

But `In the Bedroom' is not about any of these things. It is, first and foremost, about its characters. It does not fall prey to plot mechanics, nor does it flinch at exploring even the most sympathetic characters' darkest sides. For this and so many other reasons which are best left discussed behind closed doors between loved ones, `In the Bedroom' succeeds at turning the camera on flawed relationships of all forms, and it is one of the best films of the year.


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