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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for In the Bedroom can be found here.
In the Bedroom is based on the short story "Killings", written in 1979 by American writer Andre Dubus [1936-1999]. "Killings" is one of seven short stories written by Dubus and published in a collection titled In the Bedroom (2001), all stories that center around the privacy of the main characters' bedrooms. The story was adapted for the movie by screenwriter Robert Festinger and American filmmaker Todd Field (who also directed the movie).
Early in the movie, it is revealed that the term "bedroom" refers to the rear compartment of a lobster trap. A lobster enters the trap through the "kitchen" in order to get at the bait. To get out of the kitchen, the lobster moves forward and enters the bedroom where it becomes trapped. The use of the lobstering term "bedroom" is metaphorical in the context of the movie because the bedroom of a lobster trap can hold no more than two lobsters before they will turn on each other.
A copy of an undated movie script for In the Bedroom can be downloaded from Awesomefilm.com here.
In the police report, when Natalie (Marisa Tomei) was first questioned about the incident, she claimed that she saw Richard (William Mapother) shoot Frank (Nick Stahl). On further questioning during the bail hearing, however, she admits that she did not witness the actual discharge of the firearm, only heard it. On the other hand, Richard claims that there was a struggle and the gun went off accidentally. With no eyewitness to the shooting, it would be difficult to disprove Richard's account. Charging him with murder in the first or even second degree would risk the chance that the jury might find Richard to be not guilty, and he would serve no time at all. By charging him with manslaughter, to which Richard admits, he would certainly be found guilty and sentenced to anywhere from 5 to 15 years in prison.
When Natalie tries to apologize to Ruth (Sissy Spacek), Ruth backhands her across the face. Most viewers agree that Ruth slapped her because, as far as Ruth was concerned, Frank was dead because of his association with Natalie.
There's actually two poems. The first, "Auguries of Innocence" by English poet William Blake [1757-1827], is recited about 33 minutes into the movie. It may be read online here. The second, "My Lost Youth" by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow [1807-1882], is recited about an hour and 13 minutes into the movie. It may be read online here.
Matt (Tom Wilkinson) decides to take justice into his own hands. He abducts Richard at gunpoint and forces him to drive home. Matt orders Richard to pack a suitcase because he's going to send him on a trip. He leaves an Amtrak ticket envelope on the table as a clue that Richard has jumped bail then forces him to drive to a cabin in the woods where Willis (William Wise) is waiting for them. As Richard walks toward the cabin, Matt shoots him in the shoulder. Richard falls to the ground, and Matt fires two more shots into his back. After he and Willis have disposed of Richard's body, Matt returns home, undresses, washes his hands and face, and joins Ruth in bed where she is sitting up and smoking a cigarette. "Did you do it?", she asks, but Matt doesn't reply. Ruth asks if he's all right, but again he doesn't reply. Then Matt tells her about a picture he saw of Richard and Natalie. "The way she was smiling...," he says but cannot explain why it disturbs him. Ruth goes downstairs to make him something for breakfast. In the final scene, Ruth calls upstairs, "Matt, do you want coffee?" Matt sighs but doesn't answer.
The picture showed Richard and Natalie during happier times. Richard is kissing her cheek, and Natalie has a big smile. Drawings made by the children are also hanging on the walls. At the same time, Richard tries to explain to Matt that the shooting was an accident. He says that he wanted to work things out with Natalie and get back together, but Frank was always there, preventing him from talking to her. Viewers interpret this scene in two different ways. Some see the picture as a way of "humanizing" Richard who, up to this point, was portrayed as an abusive, murdering bully with Natalie and Frank as his victims. The picture suddenly forces viewers (and Matt) to see events from Richard's point of view. Other viewers see Natalie's smile as being seductive and say that, for the first time, Matt may have recognized Natalie's role in causing both Richard's anger and Frank's death. Some even liken her to the female lobster who gets thrown back in the water just because she is capable of bearing eggs. Because of her gender, they say, Natalie was the reason for setting all the events into motion, yet she gets to walk away.
Viewers almost unanimously agree that Ruth knew, based on the question she asks when Matt returns: "Did you do it?" For which, it could only refer to killing Richard. A few viewers have suggested that it might refer to Matt helping Richard jump bail, but Ruth's hatred for Richard would never have supported giving Richard a free pass out of town so that he could start up a new life somewhere. In short, Ruth knew.
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