Mystic River
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From the opening shot we know we're in the hands of a master filmmaker, guiding us carefully and expertly through a story that's chilling and deeply moving. After a brief prologue we jump ahead 25 years in this Boston-Irish neighbourhood, where the effects of child abuse have grown festering under the surface until they once again engulf three childhood pals: Jimmy (Penn) is now a shop-owner with a strong-willed wife (Linney), plunged into grief when their daughter is murdered. Sean (Bacon) is now a cop called in to investigate with his partner (Fishburne). And Dave (Robbins) is still haunted by his past, so much so that his wife (Harden) begins to suspect that something may be amiss. As the police investigation continues, these three men discover the strengths and limits of their childhood bond. And they're forced to make decisions with lasting repercussions.

There's a slow-burn intensity to this film that's nearly unbearable; Eastwood creates the mood early on and never lets up for a second, piling insinuation upon suspicion and letting the audience's intelligence connect the dots. This is mature, meaningful, thoroughly grown-up filmmaking that has something vitally important to say about the expanding effects of violence in society. Everything is layered and complex, from Eastwood's subtle-yet-telling direction and Helgeland's marvellous screenplay to brilliant production design and intense performances. It's hard to pick a standout from the actors--Penn's bristling grief, Bacon's conflicted steeliness, Robbins' jittery anguish, Linney's burning rage, Harden's brittle intuition. Even the minor characters light up the screen meaningfully in a fiercely well-plotted tale of a community that's increasingly unable to deal with lies, repression and guilt. Yes, this is a seriously gruelling film that works as a twisty murder mystery and then leaves us gasping for breath at its unsettling epilogue. The only false note is a concluding flashback involving Robbins' character; it feels obvious and condescending, and ties up one subplot far too neatly. Otherwise, this is a film that's unafraid to dig deeply into its characters and into the past, regardless of what it might unearth there. A real stunner.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 29.Sep.03

dir Clint Eastwood
scr Brian Helgeland
with Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney, Tom Guiry, Spencer Treat Clark, Kevin Chapman, Adam Nelson, Emmy Rossum, Eli Wallach
release US 8.Oct.03; UK 17.Oct.03
03/US 2h17

A father's grief: Penn

robbins bacon fishburne harden linney
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Mystic River Laurie T, Minneapolis: "I love this movie. There are several powerful performances here. The opening scene shows a lower rent district, not rich people, and 3 boys out playing in the street with hockey sticks. Their ball goes down the rain gutter so they innocently decide to mess up some newly laid cement on the sidewalk. A car comes along, and one is forced into the car, only to escape days later after having been molested and kept captive in a dark basement - needless to say, he is never quite the same afterwards. The movie resumes years later, when all are adults with kids of their own ... and one of their daughters is found murdered. I loved the plot twists and the performances in this movie - very powerful. All I can say is do yourself a favor and go see it." (3.Nov.03)

IndigoJen, Los Angeles: "I found this to be beautifully tragic, with characters that stuck in my subconscious for many days afterwards; standout performances from Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden, Sean Penn & Tim Robbins. Kevin Bacon did not have as much to work with but turned out a subtle performance of what material he did have." (14.Nov.03)

Mystic River Bobbie Lautenschlager, St Louis: "I was so underwhelmed with the story. Sean Penn is getting all the awards, but Tim Robbins was far superior in his role. I thought the script didn't know what story it was telling. Is it a mystery to be solved--which you see on TV every night, and that is how this movie ended--or is it a serious drama that demands us to think more about these characters? The Penn character added nothing to the story; I had no sympathy for him at all. Robbins is the moral center as the damaged man. We, the audience, should have known more about both him and Penn's character earlier on to add to the tension. And the Laura Linney Lady MacBeth scene comes too late--what was that about? The begining was great with the little boys, but then it gets lost. The Laurence Fishburne character keeps giving canned lines (but does that well) and there is so much 'preciousness' to scenes--and how many times do we have to look at the sky? And how many endings do there have to be? I thought this was an inferior movie to Whale Rider, American Splendor and others of this year." (17.Dec.03)

Mystic River Div, net: 3/5 "I was entertained but I don't see what was so profound about the movie. Tim Robbins' character was a broken man. [SPOILER ALERT! Highlight the following text if you don't mind reading the entire plot] He became unwound and killed a sick sexual predator like the ones who preyed on him. He was then killed mistakenly by a grieving father, who happens to be his friend and should have known better. So what? I was left unmoved by all the folly of the characters in this movie. They were all haunted men but someone could have had the sense to get help before it was too late. And as for Marcia Gay Harden's character - why not go to the police if she suspected her husband? Folly and truly senseless murder. But that's just everyday life." (5.May.04)

2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall