The film also features two of my pet peeves. When actors are supposed to be crying and make the cry-face, tears should follow. Dry crying just doesn't cut it and for the salary they're making on this picture, the actors could at least buy some Visine to kick in the waterworks. Tim Robbins was guiltiest of this lazy acting behavior in Mystic River.
But there was something deeper that bothered me and cuts to my heart, and one that continues to proliferate in our popular culture. It is the rubbernecking morbidity of the process of death. More accurately, it's what happens when the soul leaves the physical body that seems to be the most popular fodder for television and film.
The entire first act of Mystic River is given over to the morgue, the autopsy, and the funeral arrangements. America's favorite show is C.S.I. while one of the most heralded is Six Feet Under. The detached treatment most shows give the process speaks to writers who’ve never experienced the numbing horror of living through those situations. I actually understand the fascination. I used to have it as well.
But once you've had the most important and loved person in your life actually lie in a morgue for a week, after you've had your precious cargo go through an autopsy, after you’ve had to choose the final things they'll ever wear, and not until you’ve sat in a state of numbing disorientation in a funeral director's office, answering gruesome questions and making choices you never, ever even pondered, it's not until then that morbidity loses its entertainment value.
Most will never experience it and if they do, it is usually for a parent, not a spouse or child. I'm not saying one is worse than the other although losing a parent is a more expected event, one for which we spend a lifetime preparing. The majority will never see their loved one taken away in a body bag by people looking at their watch and wondering when their coffee break is. Most people live in the happy abstraction of these incidents and they can gleefully watch Real Autopsy or Forensic Files with absolutely no sense of what it's really like.
But for those who have been forced down that dark hallway, they never want to see it again. Ever.