7. In the Bedroom (2001)
I must warn you, my list takes a divergence here—numbers 10-8, while great movies, are fairly transparent thematically and were more concerned with surface-level entertainment value than inducing any real reflection from their viewers. This little film, directed by Todd Field (—genius), does just that. Of all the films on my top 10 ½, this one will probably cause the most controversy, and I can’t make any guarantees about whether you will like it. All I can guarantee is that if you don’t go through some sort of moral self-reflection after watching this movie then there’s something wrong with you. It’s very difficult to talk about this movie without giving too much away, but suffice it to say that the plot concerns a middle-aged couple from Maine who suffers a tragedy and tries desperately to cope, while they and the audience begin to question how far they are willing to go to ease the pain. There, Ebert couldn’t have said it better himself. Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek are just downright awesome as the leads, but the real star here is Field. No other director would have made such seemingly boring scenes so intense and dramatic—scenes like watching characters mow the lawn, watch TV, smoke a cigarette, or wait to cross a bridge. There is something about the quietness and subtlety of scenes like this that appeal to me as a moviewatcher. Maybe it’s because I’m a creep and I’d rather watch people than actually have a conversation with them.
Watch these scenes with an open mind and study the expression of the characters as they go about coping. Think about how you would react—how would you move on? Would you move on at all? Some of ya’ll will probably get bored while watching this movie, but trust me that there’s a payoff for paying attention to details. Some movies make you think, some movies make you feel (good or bad), and some movies exist to entertain. This movie crawls under your skin and lives inside your soul for a week, and defies you to consider your perception of who’s “good” and “bad” in society…just let it in. The final 20 minutes will leave you speechless.
-Oh, and while we’re at it, top 5 directorial debuts of the decade:
1. Todd Field, In the Bedroom
2. Martin McDonagh, In Bruges
3. Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
4. Fernando Meirelles, City of God
5. Judd Apatow, The 40 Year-Old Virgin