Mystic River


(2003) ★★★★★

TCM: Saturday 9 May, 10.55pm

The lives of three former friends in Boston are inextricably linked by a childhood kidnapping. From the day of that abduction, their relationships changed forever, barely spoken about but broken beyond repair. Now they have to talk – a murder has taken place. And it’s too close to home for comfort. Clint Eastwood’s haunting adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s unnerving novel gave Oscar-winning roles to Sean Penn and Tim Robbins. Penn seethes with grief, Robbins acts like a suspect. But Kevin Bacon is no less effective as the outsider of the trio, the cop investigating the brutal killing of Penn’s daughter. Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney also shine, clearly demonstrating that behind every indecisive man is a woman prepared to make tough choices. And the Mystic River is where they bury their sins. Like Lehane’s Gone Baby Gone, it’s a blue-collar Boston story that cuts deep, and Eastwood’s observational style has the full measure of the novel’s mournful truth. “This guy fits the profile to a T,” says Bacon’s partner, Laurence Fishburne. “On paper, he should be in jail already.” He’s talking about Robbins. The abducted boy who escaped his captors. “Damaged goods,” a bystander cruelly observed at the scene of his return home. Years pass and everything comes around, full circle. Deeds good and bad. Incidentally, this was the first time Eli Wallach and Clint had worked together since The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in 1966. Wallach appears uncredited in a key scene as the liquor store owner Mr Looney. Unforgiven’s Eastwood would win his second best director Oscar for his next film, Million Dollar Baby (Sky Movies Drama, Tuesday midnight). Compared to the depths of Mystic River, it’s a shallow soap.

Certificate: 15
Duration: 132min

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