Movie Review: Mystic River (2003)

“The river has many depths. Let it wash over you.”

3 Stars
Mystic River (2003)

Mystic River (2003)


Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon

Synopsis: A woman suspects her husband of the murder of his friend’s daughter.


WARNING! This review contains SPOILERS!

Mystic River is another piece of quality filmmaking from Clint Eastwood.   Essentially a Greek tragedy in modern dress, it isn’t without its flaws.   Perhaps the weakest plot point is the character of Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden), the wife who suspects her husband, Dave (Tim Robbins) of murdering a teenage girl, the daughter of his childhood friend, Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn – Carlito’s Way, Gangster Squad).   Dave came home on the night of the murder with blood on his hands, so it’s a natural assumption to make – especially when the body of the man he claims he might have beaten to death fails to materialise.   As a child, he was abducted by a child molester posing as a cop, while Jimmy and their other childhood friend, Sean (Kevin Bacon – She’s Having a Baby, The Darkness), the cop who is now investigating the murder of Jimmy’s daughter, escaped unscathed, and the trauma of this abduction begins to manifest itself in some erratic behaviour from Dave.

The problem with Celeste is that, as her suspicions deepen and her husband’s behaviour grows more irrational, she chooses not to voice her suspicions to the police, but to Jimmy who we (and she) know is a morally ambiguous character.   Armed with this information, any father would be sorely tempted to take the law into his own hands, but Jimmy’s a reformed hold-up man with rough edges, and a rugged working man’s view of the world.   That Celeste’s action will bring about her husband’s destruction is inevitable, and it’s one small point in an otherwise intelligent and moving script that really niggles.

The cast is first-rate.   Many of the characters’ face are filmed in shadow or part-shadow, hinting at both hidden demons and wounded hearts.   The authentic location shooting on Boston streets adds to the realistic tone that Eastwood is clearly striving for, although sometimes the film still looks a little too polished for its own good.   This could have been a great film. But as it stands it qualifies as a near-miss.

(Reviewed 26th November 2011)





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