The drama Mystic River directed by Clint Eastwood is rather serious, tragic, and deeply ambiguous about the lifelong human ties. The film has got two Oscars, numerous positive responses from critics and, to my mind, it is really worth attention. Mystic River depicts the development of three male characters on the back of a tragedy which happens in Boston, 1985. One event, happened in their childhood, has changed all the further decisions of the boys and later men. One of the main reasons which predetermined the further events development was closely connected with the sense of guilt felt by Jimmy and Sean. But finally, this feeling does not appear to be stronger than distrust and suspicions. I believe that only two of the men, Dave and Jimmy, have stayed real friends after all. Though they could feel pity and some guilt for Dave, they were not able to understand deeply what he felt those awful days which he spent captivated by pedophiles.
Although three friends grew apart during the last ten years, they still are linked together by the event happened in the past and by the native neighborhood which always reminds about their boyhood. According to Barbara Mennel, the image of the city is quite important in the movie; hence, besides the influence of human upbringing and the wider public behavior on the characters’ formation, it is essential to examine the impact of the peculiarities of Boston neighborhood on the depicted events (15). From the first view Boston, like any other city, is “a tremendous concentration of buildings, images, and people,” as Georg Simmel would call it (Macionis and Parrillo 170). Nevertheless, people always react on the physical environment of the cities in different ways and, therefore, the image of Boston neighborhood in the film becomes essential. All the events take place in the same dull Irish district of Boston where the main characters, being children, were writing their names on the wet concrete of the sidewalk. Two heroes, Dave and Jimmy, have remained living in the same surroundings, and only Sean, who has become a homicide policeman, moved out to another district of Boston. Regardless his move, the murder of a girl makes Sean come back to his native vicinity and reunite with his old friends. Speaking about the urban neighborhood and limited mobility, it is essential to recollect that Lynch discovered such five elements as paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks as those which build the image of the cities (Macionis and Parrillo 170). Therefore, it is necessary to highlight that in Mystic River, the heroes do not move to distant places much: even when taking his son to school, going to work, or to the bar, Dave goes on foot, as every point of destination is not far from another. The Charles River can be defined as the major edge which separates the districts of Boston from each other. At the same time, it becomes a symbol of the past where Jimmy hides the evidences of his criminal activities.
All the residents of the above mentioned neighborhood are different, but this does not prevent them from creating “gemeinshaft-like relations” (Macionis and Parrillo 184). A tight social network, connecting all the members of the Boston Irish neighborhood, can be traced. There are numerous examples from the film, which can prove it. The first one is the connection between three main heroes Sean, Dave and Jimmy who were friends in childhood and knew each other well. The second one is the fact that the wives of two of these men are cousins. Another one is that a guy who was in love with Katie appeared to be the son of the man, killed by Jimmy. The partner of Sean has heard about Dave because he works in police and knows about the pedophilic case in which he was involved. Finally, two boys who were the murderers of the 19-year-old girl appeared to be her boyfriend’s brother and his friend. The neighborhood ties all these different people together into one social network where each of them takes his own place. All the characters are different and not obligatory acquainted with each other personally, but strong ties between the urban neighbors are obviously forged. It shows how the city unites all the residents into one big community where finally, the deeds and behavior of one member would influence the life of another.
The difference between three main characters can be also observed even regarding their appearance. Sean, who has been quite law-abiding since the very beginning and has left the same, has got the profession of a homicide policeman and always looks neat, wears a suite. His appearance reflects his inner world which tends to do the right things and make the right decisions. Jimmy is also well-groomed and makes him appear as a well-adjusted and successful man, but his tattooed body is the reflection of his criminal life. At the same time, the wind-blown hairstyle of Dave and his clothes only supply to his image of a psychologically volatile person. All the above mentioned descriptions bring the men’s appearance into accordance with their characters.
The friends were estranged from each other not when they grew up and one of them left their native neighborhood, but much earlier. It becomes obvious when regarding the behavior of Jimmy who kills his old friend. Finally, he says that he has lost his friend long before the murder when he watched him sitting in the car and going away with two cops in childhood. He was sure that everything would be different if he was the one who was taken away by those men. He could not trust that the kind soul of Dave could be sensitized against the offenders and people of their kind, but not against the young girl Katie. Jimmy, being in prison, became much crueler than Dave who has suffered from pedophiles’ abuse. The mate of Sean was the first who noticed the print of prison on Jimmy. Sean tried to believe into Dave’s innocence and seemed to be his friend longer until he got the evidences making him think that he was a murderer. On the contrary, when it goes about Jimmy, regardless he knew about the money he sent to the families of those men whom he killed, Sean has not betrayed him.
The cinematic vision of Boston in Mystic River emphasizes the public spaces, especially the streets (Mennel 20). Through the entire movie, the heroes, who are the Boston inhabitants, are mostly walking along the sidewalks, and all the buildings look alike and dull. Nevertheless, all the pedestrians are on the street for a reason (Macionis and Parrillo 177). For instance, the scene with the boys who were playing hokey in the street can be regarded as a crucial moment of the movie. The street where they played was not crowded, and there were no people to help them. It can also be regarded as a symbol of human’s unconcern about what is happening to others. Another important fact connected with the sidewalks is the concrete with three boys’ names: the names of two boys are written completely, and only a half of the last one is imprinted on the sidewalk. This makes the observers understand that he is different from two others.
It is also essential to highlight the importance of communication in the family between the wife and the husband. In Jimmy’s family in comparison to Dave’s one, mutual love and support predominates. Be it any decision of a husband, the wife supports him even when it goes about the murder. In Dave’s family, no loyalty can be observed. Dave’s wife has much suspicions and distrust about him: instead of being kind and supportive, she is eager to help strangers rather than her husband. The fact that Dave was not willing to talk about his feelings and even about what happened with him the evening, when Katie was killed, is one more example of the importance of the communication. Being more sincere and frank with his close people could prevent many negative consequences.
The murder of a young girl was considered to be a crime while the murder of Dave was regarded as something inevitable. Jimmy was ready for everything to revenge and to find a murderer of his daughter, and even though he has killed the wrong person, he was “justified”. He did not feel himself guilty and his wife soothed him as she considered the life of her daughter to be more precious than the life of some weird guy who has had a psychological trauma in his boyhood. Afterwards, not only Jimmy’s wife but almost all the inhabitants thought so.
Everything mentioned above proves that there are many factors which influence the person’s character development and, finally, people can never understand the feelings of another person until they feel it themselves. The psychological trauma carried by Dave has influenced not only his personal development, but also the attitude of the society to him. Though common secrets and neighborhood usually unites people, the sense of guilt and the common past can also tear them apart and build a high wall of misunderstanding between them.