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In the Bedroom, Directed by Todd Field

Miramax Films, November 23, 2001 (US)

Screenplay: Robert Festinger and Todd Field, based on the short story “Killings” by André Dubus

Starring: Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson, Nick Stahl, and Marisa Tomei

Ruth Fowler
(Sissy Spacek): Matt. Should we do something?

Dr. Matt Fowler (Tom Wilkinson): No. It’s okay.

Fathers used to know best. Mothers extended generous wisdom, too. Those times, however, were before today. Parents presently succumb to intimidations from their children, who challenge elders to steer clear of personal affairs. Implicitly or not, guardians obediently step asunder, dodging conflict at every cost. Fear of alienation as retaliation for even the smallest infringement constitutes a serious enough threat to render parents mute. Deeper insecurities compound matters, paralyzing the aged. Meanwhile, the vigor of youth breezes unimpeded through open fields, churning billowing grass wild in its wake.

Ruth: Did you call the police?

Matt: Not yet.

Ruth: You didn’t call them?

Matt: Well, he … he just got in. When’d I have a chance to call the police?

Forces untended amass infinite strength: Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion demonstrates as much about physical matter as it does about unbridled human emotion. Armed with the learned principle, adults abide the perils of their young in a morass of selfish reason. Kids surge free, building momentum, further and further from shelter.

A sincere intention to intervene, vaguely cast into the future, lacks the power to counter inertia. Tomorrow arrives too late for a confrontation with dark passions unfurled. Surely, whoever claimed good things come to those who wait never buried a child whisked away by wayward winds.

In the aftermath of mistaken judgment, parental guilt and anger over the injustice of loss manifests its own blazing energy, pushing back in an equal but opposite reaction. Newton’s third law storms into play. Nevertheless, newfound vigilance set on a destructive path all of its own ultimately betrays its intent as overcompensation for failing to assert at a point when force could have made a difference. The occasion to act misses its opportunity.

Pain survives without shield. Staving off action may come easily, but overwhelming sadness cannot be placed on hold. Sharp, lacerating hurt exerts repercussions, even in the most hushed moments of grief.

Ruth: It comes in waves … and then nothing. Like a rest in music. No sound but so loud.