In the Bedroom



Tragic masterwork is too intense for many teens.
  • Review Date: September 12, 2005
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2001
  • Running Time: 138 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Characters resort to violence as revenge. Family members use extremely abusive and cruel language as main means of communication. A young college boy is involved with an older, separated-but-still-married mother of two children.


Most violence occurs off-screen, although the resulting wounds can be explicit, including, most graphically, a close-up of a face after it is shot.


No visible encounters, but off-screen sexual activity clearly implied.


Strong language in several scenes.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Sissy Spacek's character smokes constantly. Some references to possibility of alcoholism.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this complex and troubling film will be too intense for many teens. The movie's few violent scenes are graphic and wrenching. Family communication is minimal and searing. The film depicts domestic violence and implies, while not actually showing, that children witness the abuse. The characters' practically palpable grief will be too much for some young viewers, particularly those who may have lost a close relative or friend.

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What's the story?

IN THE BEDROOM paints a haunting, painfully honest portrait of a family's grief and simmering rage. Set in a suspiciously innocuous oceanside New England suburb, the film begins with a couple's seemingly innocent and romantic romp in a flowered field. Frank Fowler is an architectural college student home on summer break, while his older girlfriend, Natalie Strout (Marisa Tomei), is a married mother in the process of separating from her estranged husband. The idyllic beginning belies the coming crises and ensuing grief. All of the problems posed by such an unlikely pairing ultimately play out in the most catastrophic, tragic way, leaving in its wake a family struggling with crippling grief.

Is it any good?


In the Bedroom masterfully portrays the quiet, numbing, day-to-day grief of the bereaved, marked by a continuous undercurrent of simmering fury that will suddenly flare into violent outburst. But despite their common sorrow, the Fowlers prove unable to collectively mourn, instead isolating themselves in individual suffering. When they do openly express their grief, bitter and cutting accusations and blame ensue. In the end, it seems that only the thirst for vengeance, the obsession with some sort of retribution, can unite this fractured family.

This film is tragic but never melodramatic; the story itself and its many silences suffice to convey the deep tragedy and pain. All the actors deliver stunning, understated performances, chief among them Sissy Spacek, who masterfully embodies a subdued, smoldering grief.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the intersection of family, love and violence. Does the movie condone or condemn violence, or both? Families can also discuss the breakdown and seeming failure of family communication. Another interesting discussion topic would be exploring how the characters' occupational fields (medicine, music instruction, architecture, canning industry) illuminate or contradict their personalities.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 19, 2001
DVD release date:January 4, 2005
Cast:Marisa Tomei, Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson
Director:Todd Field
Run time:138 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:violence, language, sexual content

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byLM April 9, 2008

I was bored - no reason for a children to see it

Quite honestly I don't see why this film received so much acclaim. It does to a good job of showing how one family deals with the loss of a child, but it's not the message you want any children under 20 to see. Also, it's boring.


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