Mystic River
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been 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 Mystic River can be found here.

Yes. Mystic River (2001) was written by American author Dennis Lehane and adapted for the screen by American screenwriter Brian Helgeland.

The Mystic River is the name of a river in Boston. It's name comes from a Wampanoag word meaning "big river." Some viewers of the movie say that the only significance of the title is that the Mystic River is where Jimmy [Sean Penn] dumps the bodies of Dave [Tim Robbins] and, years before that, Just Ray Harris. Jimmy tells Dave, "We bury our sins here [in the Mystic River], Dave. We wash them clean," so other viewers see something more "mystical" in the title and have likened it metaphorically to karma, that is, what-goes-around-comes-around. The author hasn't admitted much more than that he liked the name of the river and the various meanings it could have.

At the beginning of the movie, Dave, Jimmy, and Sean were depicted as young boys playing in the street. A policeman comes along and takes Dave away with him. The "policeman" is actually a hebephile (one with a preference for a sexual partner who appears to be of a specific age). Days later, when Dave finally escapes, he is marked by everyone in the neighborhood as "damaged goods." After that, it becomes easy to blame Dave for doing criminal things to others, based on the erroneous assumption that "what goes around comes around." On a narrative level, the trauma is also what ultimately causes Dave's death, although indirectly. Obviously, very few others still know about his ordeal, since everybody chose to simply bury the subject. Dave never got counselling to cope with the event, he hasn't even told his wife Celeste. On the night of the murder, Dave attacks and kills a pedophile in an attempt to save a young boy from a fate similar to his. However, his inability to talk about his motives causes him to come up with a fake story about a mugger, which he tells his wife Celeste. Celeste becomes suspicious when she cannot find any mentioning of a wounded mugger in the newspapers. This becomes worse when she hears Dave give different statements as to the cause of his hand injury; if it was from fending off a mugger, why not come clean about it? His increasing mental instability starts to frighten her to the point where she shares the suspicion with Jimmy, which ultimately leads to Dave's death.

Originally the police believe that Katie's death has something to do with her secret relationship with Brendan Harris and suspect that Brendan's father "Just Ray" Harris might have killed Katie because he had a bad past with Jimmy. They had discovered that the gun used to shoot Katie had once been used in a robbery by Just Ray. What turns out to have happened was that Brendan's brother, Ray Harris Jr, had found his father's gun. He and a friend decided to have some fun with the gun. They were scaring motorists with it by pointing the gun at them as they passed by. Katie happened to be randomly driving by and crashed the car when she saw the gun. The two boys went over to check on her at which point she recognized Ray as her boyfriend's brother. At some point the gun went off, wounding Katie, and she fled into the park (Brendan even suggested that Ray Jr. may have had some motive to shoot Katie, since she was going to take Brendan away from him to Las Vegas). Afraid of the consequences, the two boys followed Katie and killed her to keep from talking.

Connect "stupid" and "kids", and you'll have the answer. They were trying to cover up the murder by making it look like they were just the good guys reporting their suspicion that a murder had been committed. Besides, it was a setup to the pivotal point in the movie when a cop thinks to ask, "How did they know it was a woman?"

This question has raised considerable discussion. Most viewers point out that Dave was drunk and wasn't thinking fast. Others feel that Dave wasn't certain the pedophile was dead or that his body was still there behind McGill's. It is also pointed out that Jimmy was in anguish over Katie's murder. The Savages had convinced him that Dave was guilty (even though Dave kept trying to convince Jimmy that he killed a pedophile, not Katie). When Jimmy told Dave that he would kill him if he didn't confess to killing Katie, Dave saw that as a way to escape with his life, so he confessed to a crime that he didn't commit. Unfortunately, Jimmy went back on his word and killed Dave on the spot.

The ending is left open. Some viewers interpret the scene during the parade where Sean (Kevin Bacon) makes a gun with his fingers and points it at Jimmy as saying, "I'm gonna get you." Jimmy's shrug is then interpreted as him saying either "Try, if you can," or "I know you will...eventually."

One movie that viewers have mentioned as being similar to Mystic River is Summer of Sam (1999), in which a punk rocker is almost beaten to death when his "friends" conclude that he must be the serial killer known as "Son of Sam", who is terrorizing their section of the Bronx. Thematically very similar is Gone Baby Gone, another crime story set in Boston, also by writer Dennis Lehane.

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