#3 & #4 Grief on Film: In the Bedroom and Sophie’s Choice

3) In the Bedroom

In the Bedroom is a terrific but brutally frank film about a marriage crumbling in the face of child loss, probably the most honest cinematic portrayal of the subject I have ever seen. This multi-award winning drama directed by Todd Field centers on an ordinary middle class couple in Maine called the Fowlers, Matt and Ruth, played with bravery by Tom Wilkenson and Sissy Spacek, whose son Frank is killed by the violent ex-husband of the older women he loves, played by Marissa Tomei.  The couple’s anger in this case is centered on the failure of the justice system to appropriately deal with the killer, but the film does a remarkable job of portraying how the self-absorption and anger of grief can erode the very foundations of a marriage, no matter what the circumstances.

4.) Sophie’s Choice

Based on William Styron’s magnificent novel of the same title, directed by Alan J. Paluka, Sophie’s Choice centers on a beautiful Polish immigrant and Auschwitz survivor named Sophie, played by Meryl Streep, and her mad, Auschwitz-obsessed lover Nathan, played by Kevin Kline.  They share a boarding house with Stingo, the film’s narrator, played by Peter MacNicol, a young writer from the south who travels to post-World War II Brooklyn and befriends the couple.  Through the course of the film, as Sophie reveals to Stingo pieces of her devastating history, Stingo falls in love with Sophie and in his earnest naïvety begins to believe he can save her. I include Sophie’s Choice in my list because while the film has a broad historical significance and is about much in addition to grief, Meryl Streep’s Oscar-winning performance as the inconsolable Sophie is so deep and accurate, nuanced and real, that the film’s power as an illuminator of grief cannot be denied.  So much of this film is indelibly embedded in my consciousness, but I particularly want to mention the final scene, during which Stingo reads from Nathan’s book of Emily Dickinson poems, “Ample Make this Bed.”   

Originally posted on http://www.opentohope.com

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