Review by Simon Bell
Based on a story from the late American writer Andre Dubus, this masterful interpretation from first time helmer Todd Field is an unbending and powerful tale of morality played out in the environs of summer lobster fishing along the Maine coast, New England.
As has been noted of Dubus, he writes not about love in the moping nostalgic manner, but love as it is experienced.
The film has The Full Monty's Tom Wilkinson and current indie favourite Sissy Spacek as doctor Matt and teacher Ruth Fowler, a supposedly happily married couple, living a comfortable middle-class existence. That is, until tragedy strikes when their student son, primed for academic brilliance, is murdered by his girlfriend's violently possessive and estranged husband.
It is during the parents ensuing struggle for justice (or revenge?) that the film really takes off. Spacek is mesmerising but this is really Wilkinson's bag, executing as he does both the complexity and control the role deserves as familial exchange turn into stilted monosyllable and then eventually to brusque silence.
As lush natural greens turn to autumnal browns, the end of the summer marks a very transitory time for the Fowlers.
Simply brilliant in support are only child Nick Stahl and the beauty from Brooklyn Marisa Tomei as the harassed single mother, back to her "My Cousin Vinny" best.
Most will remember Todd Field as the catalyst for Tom Cruise's journey into erotic nightmare in Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut". But he's been knocking around in independent American cinema while touting his own short films for a while before he settled on his writer friend's story of family turmoil.
Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Acting at this year's Sundance Film Festival, this Miramax release will no doubt fill the low-budget independent gap and do very nicely at next month's Oscars, much in the vain of "You Can Count On Me" last year.
Believe the hype for once. This is an unsentimental and unpredictable adult movie, characterised by an indisputably stark visual sense, with powerhouse performances that are as good as they say.