Today’s AFI Movie Club Selection: IN THE BEDROOM


Posted by Larry Gleeson

A 2001 AFI AWARDS honoree, IN THE BEDROOM marked the feature directorial debut of AFI Conservatory alum Todd Field (AFI Class of 1992) and was shot by Antonio Calvache (AFI Class of 1992). 

The film’s title refers to the inner cage within a lobster trap, which is referred to as “the bedroom” and is intended to hold only two lobsters. When there are more than two lobsters, it is said that there is “trouble in the bedroom.”Based on the short story “Killings” by Andre Dubus and The Wyeths by N.C. Wyeth, The film centers on the inner dynamics of a family in transition.

Matt Fowler (Wilkinson) is a doctor practicing in Maine and is married to Ruth Fowler (Spacek), a music teacher. Their son Frank (Stahl) is involved in a love affair with an older single mother, Natalie Strout (Tomei). As the beauty of Maine’s brief and fleeting summer comes to an end, these characters find themselves in the midst of an unimaginable tragedy. (Wiki)

In the Bedroom was nominated by AFI in the following categories: Movie of the Year, Actor of the Year—Male—Movies (Wilkinson), Director of the Year (Field) and Screenwriter of the Year (Festinger and Field). The film received Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress for Spacek and Best Supporting Actress for Marisa Tomei. The film received the following Academy Award Nominations: Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Tom Wilkinson, Best Actress, Spacek and Best Supporting Actress, Tomei.

Upon its limited release in Nov 2001, the picture garnered further awards, including the Best Film Prize from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Spacek and Wilkinson were named Best Actress and Best Actor by the New York Film Critics Circle. Spacek was also selected by AFI as Actor of the Year—Female—Movies.

The film’s title refers to the inner cage within a lobster trap, which is referred to as “the bedroom” and is intended to hold only two lobsters. When there are more than two lobsters, it is said that there is “trouble in the bedroom.”

Watch director and AFI Conservatory alum Todd Field (AFI Class of 1992) talk about the film.

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Conversation Starters

  • After the tragic loss of their son, the Fowlers also lose their ability to communicate, and this culminates in a gesture of violent retribution. Describe the transformation of their marital relationship and consider why it leads to bloodshed.
  • How do the characters’ livelihoods reflect and contradict their actual identities? How does social class and economic disparity inform their personalities, and how are these issues are depicted in the movie?
  • IN THE BEDROOM refers to the inner cage of a lobster trap, where the lobsters grow hostile if there are more than two in the enclosure. How does this metaphor play out in the movie? 
  • In his Guardian review of IN THE BEDROOM, David Lodge called the film a “perfect allegory of September 11 and its aftermath,” even though production was completed before the horrific events of 9/11 occurred. He noted that it “tapped into deep collective emotions” as it was released in November 2001 when America was still mourning. How does IN THE BEDROOM reflect the human impulses of rage, grief, and the inability to make sense of tragedy that leads to revenge? Do you see parallels to America’s response to 9/11?
  • IN THE BEDROOM depicts extreme domestic violence and its tragic impact on a family coping with grief. When the legal system seems to fail them, the Fowlers take the law into their own hands. Do you think the ending was justified? Does this movie condone violence?
  • How would you rate IN THE BEDROOM?

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

Movie Trivia

DID YOU KNOW? IN THE BEDROOM’s title refers to the inner cage of a lobster trap, which is called “the bedroom,” and is intended only to hold two lobsters. 

DID YOU KNOW? IN THE BEDROOM marked the feature film directorial debut of AFI alum Todd Field, who also co-wrote the screenplay based on the short story “Killings” by Andre Dubus. Dubus died a year before production began, and Field dedicated the film to him in an onscreen credit. Field became interested in Dubus’ work while he was Directing Fellow at AFI.

DID YOU KNOW? Shot on location in the cities of Rockland and Camden, ME, several scenes from IN THE BEDROOM were filmed at Todd Field’s family cabin, and some of his son’s T-Ball teammates were used as background actors.

DID YOU KNOW? Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, IN THE BEDROOM brought actors Sissy Spacek and Tim Wilkinson a joint Special Jury Prize. The film went on to be honored with an AFI AWARD as one of the best movies of the year.

DID YOU KNOW?Made for $1.7 million, IN THE BEDROOM was a surprise box-office success, earning more than $43 million in its theatrical release.

DID YOU KNOW? IN THE BEDROOM was honored with fiveOscarÒ nominations – including Best Actor (Tom Wilkinson), Best Actress (Sissy Spacek), Best Supporting Actress (Marisa Tomei), Best Writing and Best Picture. This marked AFI alum Todd Field’s first two Oscar® nominations.

(Sourced from AFI News)