Mystic River 2003 Movie Scene Sean Penn as Jimmy Markum finding out his daughter has been killed

Mystic River [2003]

Some movies feel like novels more than others and this one is definitely one of them. Mystic River is a compelling and quite haunting drama featuring an all-star cast and an even better director. We will be following a group of childhood friends who find themselves close again after a traumatic event. Wait a minute, this sounds a bit familiar. Childhood friends, childhood trauma, and then grown-up battle, are you sure this isn’t based on a Stephen King novel? Yes, dear imaginary reader, I’m sure as the writer is Dennis Lehane (Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island).

Mystic River doesn’t need supernatural monsters, there are plenty of regular ones walking our streets right now. The movie tackles a very sensitive subject of child abuse with care. It reminded me of a much more fucked up and impactful movie, Sleepers. Now that’s a fucking masterpiece. Mostly because the story evolves seemingly naturally while here it feels a bit too thought-out. I know that I’m perhaps not making a lot of sense now but you’ll see what I mean when you play the movie. And you should do that because Mystic River is a movie worth watching.

Clint Eastwood showed again that he’s an excellent director and the cast was simply sublime. Led by Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, it brought these characters to life with conviction. And it also made the whole story feel much more intense. Penn was especially great as this is exactly his type of character. Clint didn’t use any gimmicks to make the story feel more dramatic and I respect him for that. However, there’s one aspect of this movie that I didn’t like too much and I’m not sure how to quite describe it. Usually, I use the term emotional milking or masturbation but I don’t think it applies here.

What I’m talking about is the manipulation of the viewer’s emotions to elicit certain responses and guide him or her through a cathartic experience. Here, that journey is almost visible, especially towards the end of the movie. Although I’m not sure whether I’m right and this is what they were trying to do. I guess I will have to see the movie again to be sure and I’ll come back and tell you my findings. For now, let’s leave it at that and move on. Mystic River is best viewed as an immersive character study. Everything else is a bonus.

The story is taking place in Boston, a place we know well from a lot of other movies. Since the runtime is over two hours, this is a movie that’s going to take up your whole evening. Although I shouldn’t make those assumptions, maybe you watch movies for hours, just like I do. This is an emotional movie but since almost all of the main characters are men, the emotions are just underneath the surface. There’s melancholy, pain, and all sorts of other negative emotions bottled and not-so-bottled up to keep going with this thing we call life.

Director: Clint Eastwood

Writers: Brian Helgeland, Dennis Lehane

Cast: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, Andrew Mackin

Fun Stuff: The ring you can see on the finger of a man in a car young Dave was taken to is a bishop’s ring. The movie was shot in Boston at the height of the pedophilia case involving the Catholic church. If you want to know more, I recommend you check out a 2006 documentary Deliver Us From Evil.


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