Mystic River (2003)

Written by Wuchak on December 17, 2018

Evils of the past and the problems with vigilante justice

Released in 2003 and directed by Clint Eastwood, “Mystic River” tells the story of three men from a working class neighborhood in Boston. While playing in the street as kids, one of them is abducted and sexually abused for days. As adults they’ve drifted apart. Jimmy (Sean Penn) is a reformed con who runs a successful market when his daughter is suddenly murdered (Emmy Rossum). Sean (Kevin Bacon) investigates the murder with his partner, Whitey (Laurence Fishburne), with evidence eventually pointing toward Dave (Timothy Bottoms), the one who was abducted. Marcia Gay Harden plays Dave’s anxious spouse while Laura Linney plays Jimmy’s loyal wife.

This is similar in tone & theme to the melancholy “Sleepers” (1996), but less episodic and more dramatically gripping. The movie has the confidence to take its time and flesh-out the characters. It’s a psychological crime drama that works as both a whodunit and a tragedy. The intrinsic problems of vigilante justice are cogently illustrated.

Some people have misinterpreted the movie because they missed some things. For instance, they criticize the curious Lady Macbeth-like monologue of Annabeth (Linney) at the end. But watch the movie again, pay close attention, and the answers are there. I’d say more, but I don’t want to give anything away (you’re welcome to write me if you’d like some insights).

“Mystic River” is not something that can be casually watched; it’s a deep drama with three-dimensional characters, potently exploring several intriguing issues: How abuses of the past affect the present; the danger of hiding recesses of your psyche; the folly of not getting spiritual help for deep-rooted psychological concerns; disloyalty/loyalty; doing the wrong thing for the right reasons; jumping to wrong conclusions based on dubious info; houses divided cannot stand; the importance of encouraging one’s spouse for the sake of familial health & survival; “king of the castle”; etc.

The film runs 2 hours, 18 minutes and was shot in Boston.