Mystic River (2003)

Marking Eastwood’s late-career resurgence as a noteworthy filmmaker is this powerful drama about choices and consequences, backed by a solid ensemble cast that includes Oscar-winning performances by Sean Penn and Tim Robbins.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dir. Clint Eastwood
2003 | USA/Australia | Crime/Drama/Mystery | 138 mins | 2.39:1 | English
NC16 (passed clean) for language and violence

Cast: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney, Laurence Fishburne
Plot: The investigation behind the death of a young woman in a small community reconnects three estranged friends.
Awards: Won 2 Oscars – Best Leading Actor, Best Supporting Actor; Nom. for 4 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay; Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes)
Distributor: Warner Bros

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Guilt
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: Netflix
Spoilers: No

Already 73 at the time, Clint Eastwood’s late-career resurgence as a noteworthy filmmaker with Mystic River (2003) was quite something, even though he had already directed more than 20 features since the early ‘70s.  He followed up with the even more accomplished Million Dollar Baby (2004) and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006). 

But there is something powerful about Mystic River—it is not just a crime film with a police investigation in tow, but a story about choices and consequences that befall a trio of men whose shared history complicates the matters at hand. 

These childhood friends—now adults played by Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon—are reunited when one of them suffers a family tragedy caused by a murder in which the killer might be someone they know. 

“We bury our sins here, Dave. We wash them clean.”

Regrets, guilt, haunted memories are translated into emotional performances, particularly from Penn and Robbins, both of whom received Oscars for their terrific work. 

While the narrative is dense and takes its time to unfold, Mystic River is really an actor’s film, and hence, one could see how good Eastwood is as an actor’s director.  Even the supporting women cast with the likes of Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney are fantastic. 

But make no mistake, Mystic River is meant to be seen as an indictment of masculinity, a reflective treatise about men trapped with their inner demons and their desire to break free from their debilitating ‘natures’ in order to understand and be understood at the same time, yet accomplishing neither in the process. 

Grade: A-



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