The School of Rock

Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laura Linney
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Running Time: 137 mins
Rated: MA 15+

At the end of Mystic River, the Columbus Day parade goes on. People celebrate the American Dream. They are not dead, but so much has died inside. One of the characters has said that the secrets and lies should come out. But, they don't. People hide their sorrows, their breaches of conscience and, sometimes defiantly, carry on.

However, Clint Eastwood's film is about how the central characters got to that situation. In his 24th film as director, making it at the age of 72, Eastwood has settled for intelligent adult drama and a dramatisation of moral issues. His film is also finely crafted, with the city of Boston and the Mystic River almost becoming characters as well. The film is quite long, is measured in its pace and, while it does show a police investigation into a murder in some detail, the interest is always in the characters and the tangles of their interactions.

In the prologue, one of the three neighbourhood kids is abducted and molested. This crime, focussed on one boy, will have consequences and ramifications for many people and for the community decades later.

The three men are expertly portrayed, Sean Penn standing out as the punk grown into middle age, devoted to his family, grieving the murder of his daughter but deciding that he is to be the arbiter of justice. Tim Robbins does well as the man who still mourns the childhood he never had because of the abduction. Kevin Bacon (with Laurence Fishburne as his partner) is the straight-arrow successful detective. Eastwood is well served by both Laura Linney (whose speech at the end to her husband is key to the decisions made) and Marcia Gay Harden as a bewildered wife who makes a terrible mistake of judgment.

Eastwood has contributed to our movie consciousness in so many ways. Here, he contributes reflection on our conscience.

Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: the World Association for Catholic Communications and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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