Monday, October 26, 2009

In the Bedroom

In the Bedroom is a 2001 film, based on the short story "Killings" by Andre Dubus. I don't recall anyone mentioning it, but definitely another one we should include as a top palliative care movie.

Frank Fowler is a young man spending the summer with his parents in Maine before he heads off to graduate school. He meets an older woman, Natalie, with two children and a violent ex-husband. Although he tells his mother this is just a summer fling, he seriously contemplates staying and taking a year off school.

He has just made the decision to go back to school when he is shot and killed by Natalie's ex-husband. The remainder of the film focuses on his parents, Ruth and Matt, as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives after the murder of their only child. This is made much more difficult when Frank's murderer gets out on bail and they see him walking around town, smiling at them. They find out that he will likely only be charged with manslaughter, as he claims the shooting was an accident. This pushes Matt and Ruth emotionally over the edge. We see a little of what ordinary people might be capable of in a very bad situation. I won't ruin the ending.

I really loved this movie. I loved that I felt we got to know and like Frank before he died. Although the movie was about the aftermath of his death, I felt that he was a main character from the beginning and remained a main character even after he was gone.

I loved the pace of this movie. It very slowly and carefully puts the story together and I think it makes it more real. It mixes in a lot of short scenes that at the time seem insignificant but aren't really. After Frank's death, the pace seems to slow down more, like the pace of grief. It does build to a climactic sort of ending, but after the action is over, it slows back down again. You see Matt in bed and Ruth yelling up to see if he wants coffee, just so normal.

The majority of the film deals with grief and the process by which these two people are trying to move through it. You see profound sadness, anger, guilt, blame, all the emotions you might expect. At first no one is talking to anyone. Just a lot of silent evenings in front of the TV. Then there are big blowups and finger pointing. The grief seemed very realistic to me. Ruth has an eloquent description of grief. "It comes in waves. And then nothing. Like a rest in music. No sound but so loud." (I loved the writing in this movie. Like poetry.)

So what's with the title? It seems provocative at first glance. (Again, I love the writing. So clever.) At the beginning of the film (in one of the scenes that seemed insignificant at the time), Matt, Frank and one of Natalie's children are out on a boat, trapping lobster. They find one with only one arm and this is how Matt explains what happened. "See the trap has nylon nets called heads. Two side heads to let the lobster crawl in and inside what they call a bedroom head to hold the bait and keeps them from escaping. You know the old saying twos company threes a crowd? Well, it's like that. You get more than two of these in the bedroom and chances are something like that's going to happen."

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