Mystic River

The Movie "Mystic River" is the kind of film that quiets an entire audience, and they walk away quietly, saying nothing. And it’s one of the most powerful statements yet from director Clint Eastwood.

The film is about three boys, Jimmy, Sean, and Dave, who grew up in the rough section of Boston, playing stick hockey in the streets. One day, a car comes along, and two men take Dave away, apparently to the police station, for the simple act of scratching his name in the fresh cement of a sidewalk. What happens that day alters their friendship forever.

As adults, their paths will cross again. Sean Penn is the adult Jimmy Marcus, an ex-con gone straight, now the proprietor of the corner grocery in the same neighborhood. Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon), grew up a few streets away, in a somewhat better neighborhood, and is now a homicide detective in Boston. Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins), still haunted by that ride he took many years ago, tries to keep his head, and his marriage together.

One night, Dave comes home very late from the neighborhood bar, covered in blood. His wife (Marcia Gay Harden) cleans his wounds and hears his confused story of his confrontation with a mugger. But that same night, Katie, the 19-year-old daughter of Jimmy, turns up missing. Assigned to the case, of course, is boyhood friend Sean, along with his partner, played by Laurence Fishburne.

All of us has gone through a childhood, rich, poor, or somewhere in between, where we had friends, and dreamed of what our future might be. So for me, and for many of us, this film makes a direct connection with our childhoods. And then with the adults we have become. Are we, physically, in the same place where we started? Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it may not be what we had dreamed of. And how far have we come mentally? Emotionally? Financially? Do we want to go back and deal with what we might have left undone, unresolved, in our youth? And what might we change along the way, given the chance? This film reminds us that we might go back, but changing those things is not an option.

There are some tragic figures here: Sean, whose wife has left for some unexplained reason. Dave, whose mental state leaves him with many unanswered questions, and leaves his wife with some serious doubts about his activities on the night in question. And Jimmy, haunted by his time in prison, grieving the loss of his daughter, and unable to control his temper. Always keeping his rage just below the boiling point.

I might have asked for a happier resolution to their problems, but could not have expected a more strongly stated depiction of an intersection of three troubled lives. Eastwood does himself proud once more. Brian Helgeland contributes a gripping screenplay based on the novel by Dennis Lehane. "Mystic River," starring Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, and Tim Robbins is now showing at the showplace East in Bloomington, and reviewing the movies for WFIU, I’m Joe Bourne.

Peter Noble Kuchera

Originally from Columbus, Indiana, Peter moved to Bloomington in 1998. He completed four years of film study at the University of Minnesota and two years of film production in the Film Cities in St. Paul. He began reviewing movies for WFIU in 2003 and began producing on-air fundraising spots for WTIU in 2006. In 2008 he received a second place award for Best Radio Critic at the Los Angeles Press Club’s First Annual National Entertainment Journalism Awards in 2008. Peter passed away suddenly on June 8, 2009.

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