Posts Tagged ‘Irish-Americans’

(Originally published in 2003)


Mystic River

by Jonas Cukierman

Clint Eastwood haunts us once again with a hard-bitten drama about the harsh lives of some very tough Irish-Americans in BostonSean Penn leads a cast of such greats as the sorely missed Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne and Marcia Gay Harden. The film opens with three best friends as young boys, Dave (Robbins), Jimmy (Penn) and Sean (Bacon) playing ball on the street of their working-class neighborhood. Then almost at once, their lives are traumatically changed. Now we jump forward twenty-five years and are led through a series of seemingly unrelated crimes. From the onset, the film’s cinematography and its minimal yet ominous music, are instrumental in depicting a world that is as much forbidding inside, as it is outside the minds of the main players. The relationship of the individuals and those surrounding them is tested to the breaking point when Jimmy’s daughter (Emmy Rossum) is found murdered. This is also when we are given a paced but well calculated inroad into the psyche of these three men, who were once close, but have each taken diametrically opposite paths. From this point, the surface of their outwardly cohesive community begins to break as secrets and past grievances rear their ugly heads. Slowly but surely, we realize that Dave, Sean and Jimmy have histories, which are disturbing in their own design. While there is a seemingly innate tendency towards crime within Jimmy, there is also an ever-present allusion to the power which religion plays in his life and how he relates to his ordeals. Neither the major or minor characters in Mystic River are spared the barrage of violence and misunderstandings, which snowball into a final and very alarming finale.

Kevin Bacon and Laurence Fishburne are mainly left in the sidelines and turn in rather muted performances. This however is not so much a product of the material, as it is the fact that Penn and Robbins deliver the embodiment of two truly unhinged and in many ways defeated men. In my opinion, there are two central themes that prevail in this film, which at times seems to have a murky plot. The first is that people have a dangerous tendency to draw inferences based on certain perceptions rather than on hard evidence. This in itself is most risky, especially when a person’s sanity is at stake, let alone his life. The other is that in the end we answer not to other men, but to our own conscience.