In the Bedroom

In the Bedroom is a film broken into three distinctive acts: the first is a family drama about a college-bound Maine boy (Nick Stahl) who falls in love with a much-older married local (Marisa Tomei), against the cautious tut-tutting of his cozy parents (Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson); the second act focuses on the trials the parents must endure when their son's romance ends tragically; the third becomes something of a suspense thriller.

Based on a short story by the late Andre Dubus (the title of which was thoughtfully changed, so as not to spoil any of the plot twists), In the Bedroom is bleak, almost relentlessly so: the middle hour of the film stretches out a family's quiet pain so torturously that their sadness becomes unbearable. But it's well-acted and well-told. If the final act brings some relief to the despair that precedes it, it also brings the story to a strangely numb conclusion. That's the point, of course, but it keeps the film from haunting me as much as it should have.

Still, there's a lot to like here. Smalltown Maine is beautifully captured, and there isn't a single cheap or dishonest moment in the film's two-hour-plus running time. Call it the Boys Don't Cry or At Close Range of 2001.