A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
Talk to your kids 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.
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