One of the most harrowing single mom roles I’ve ever witnessed an actor portray was Marissa Tomei’s character in the 2001 film In the Bedroom.
If you haven’t rented this movie and you are a parent of any type, go rent it. Its honestly one of my favorite movies, dispite how disturbing and intense it is.
I like dramas, but mostly I like movies about a place. The setting of the film is wicked important to me, because it can be a character in itself. Sometimes the setting of a film literally molds the character’s personalities, actions and can change the entire plot of the film.
In the Bedroom takes place in a coastal town in Maine, so if you’ve ever lived in New England, you can understand what kind of a role that plays in a movie: Red Sox games act as the main soundtrack of the movie, as do lobster boat motors, thick New England accents (seriously, there is hardly any music in this film, other than the natural sounds in each scene).
Tomei’s character is a newly single mom who can’t get divorced due to “Maine’s crazy laws.” She’s got two sons and an ass that routinely gets oogled by the local dudes. She’s also got a crazy baby daddy as well, who is the son of the richest family in the small town. Tomei shacks up with Nick Stahl, an aspiring architect who barely has his feet wet in college. Stahl is also the only son of the beloved town doctor (Wilkinson) and music teacher (Spacek), and his relationship with the single mom becomes hot gossip when he starts taking a more serious role in her life. Major darkness descends on the film from there.
Even though the movie isn’t necessarily about a single mom, her role is pivotal in the story. Her place in the small town, the family of her boyfriend and her ex’s life is painfully obvious. She is lusted after, yet unwanted. She is tainted, yet admired. The dynamic between the young, single mother, and the married, senior mother of her boyfriend is mesmerizing.
“She’s such a brave girl,” the boyfriend’s mother sympathizes, yet whispers her husband, “You know this isn’t the first time she’s messed around.”
This movie hard to watch. It starts off fast and comes to a screeching halt, where you are left to sort through the aftermath of the single mom-created climax. The first time I saw this movie, it shook me to the core, and I saw it way before I was ever a single mom. Now that my life has changed so much, the movie has an even deeper meaning.
One of my struggles as a single parent is the fear that this movie so eloquently presents: How dangerous is it to involve someone new in your twisted and haunted past?
I’m still coming to grips with the pain and suffering (and I’m sure everyone deals with this differently) of my past. I’m still trying to sort through all the events and decisions that were made, almost a year later. Personally, I can’t even imagine throwing a new relationship into that stew, which is why I was so baffled by Rooferman’s immediate proclamation of love for another, right after he had told me it was over. How can someone move on so quickly? Maybe I’m just too sensitive, while the more resilient members of society are the ones who are able to continue with their lives without a blink of an eye.
In the Bedroom plays on so many emotions: love, loss, revenge, fear, motherhood, rage, forgiveness, pain, ignorance and strength; pretty much every emotion I’ve experienced in the last two years. This movie also makes you think “What would I do if I were faced with that situation? How would I cope?”
More Noteworthy Single Mom Characters to come….