Mystic River (film)

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Mystic River
Mystic River poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byClint Eastwood
Produced by
Screenplay byBrian Helgeland
Based onMystic River
by Dennis Lehane
Music byClint Eastwood
CinematographyTom Stern
Edited byJoel Cox
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • October 15, 2003 (2003-10-15)
Running time
138 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million[2]
Box office$156.6 million[2]

Mystic River is a 2003 American neo-noir mystery crime drama film directed and scored by Clint Eastwood, and starring Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, and Laura Linney. The screenplay, written by Brian Helgeland, was based on the 2001 novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane. It is the first film in which Eastwood was credited as composer of the score.

Mystic River was nominated for six Academy Awards at the 76th Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Penn, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress for Harden, and Best Supporting Actor for Robbins. Penn and Robbins won in their respective categories, making Mystic River the first film to win both awards since Ben-Hur in 1959 and until Dallas Buyers Club in 2013.


Three Irish-American boys, Jimmy Markum, Sean Devine, and Dave Boyle, are playing hockey in a Boston street in 1975, when Dave is kidnapped by two men and sexually abused for four days before managing to escape.

25 years later, the boys are grown and, while they still live in Boston, have drifted apart. Jimmy is an ex-con running a neighborhood convenience store; Sean is a detective with the Massachusetts State Police; and Dave is a blue collar worker continually haunted by the abduction and rape. Jimmy and Dave are still neighbors and related by marriage. Sean's pregnant wife, Lauren, has recently left him; she frequently phones him, but never speaks during their calls. Jimmy's 19-year-old daughter Katie is secretly dating Brendan Harris, a boy from a family Jimmy despises. Brendan and Katie are planning to run away together to Las Vegas.

Katie goes out for the night with her girlfriends and Dave sees her at a local bar. That night, Katie is murdered, and Dave comes home bloodied and injured, telling his wife he fought off a mugger and possibly killed him.

Sean and his partner, Sergeant Whitey Powers, investigate the murder, while Jimmy conducts his own investigation using his neighborhood connections. Sean discovers that Katie apparently recognized her killer and that the gun used to kill her, a .38 Special revolver, was also used in a liquor store robbery in 1984 by "Just Ray" Harris, the father of Brendan. Harris has been missing since 1989, but Brendan claims he still sends his family $500 every month. Brendan also feigns ignorance about Ray's gun. Whitey suspects Dave, who keeps changing the story about how his hand was injured. Dave continues to behave strangely, which upsets his wife to the point she leaves their home and tells Jimmy she suspects he might be involved in the murder.

Jimmy and his friends confront Dave. Jimmy admits to Dave that he killed "Just Ray" for implicating Jimmy which resulted in his imprisonment. Dave reveals to Jimmy that he did kill someone that night, but it was not Katie; he beat a child molester to death after finding him with a child prostitute. Jimmy does not believe Dave and pulls out a knife, but promises to let him live if he confesses to Katie's murder. However, when Dave admits to killing Katie, Jimmy kills him and disposes of his body in the adjacent Mystic River.

Meanwhile, Brendan, after finding his father's gun missing, confronts his younger brother "Silent Ray" and his friend John O'Shea about Katie's murder. He beats the two boys, trying to get them to admit their guilt. As John pulls out Just Ray's gun and is about to shoot Brendan, Sean and Whitey arrive, having connected a 911 call to the two boys; they disarm and arrest John and Silent Ray.

The next morning, Sean tells Jimmy that John and Silent Ray confessed to killing Katie as part of a prank gone wrong. Sean asks Jimmy if he has seen Dave, as he is wanted for questioning in another case, the murder of a known child molester; Jimmy does not answer. He thanks Sean for finding his daughter's killers, but says, "if only you had been a little faster." Sean then asks Jimmy if he is going to "send Celeste Boyle $500 a month too?"

Sean reunites with his wife and his daughter Nora, after apologizing for "pushing her away". Jimmy goes to his wife, Annabeth, and confesses. She comforts him and tells him he is a king and kings always make the right decision. At a town parade, Dave's son is sad as he waits for his father. Sean sees Jimmy and mimics firing a gun with his hand, to let Jimmy know he is coming for him as Jimmy spreads his arms that he is ready too.



Principal photography took place on location in Boston.[3] Eastwood stated that the three lead actors were his first choices for the roles.[3]


Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 88% based on 206 reviews, with an average rating of 7.77/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Anchored by the exceptional acting of its strong cast, Mystic River is a somber drama that unfolds in layers and conveys the tragedy of its story with visceral power."[4] At the website Metacritic, which utilizes a normalized rating system, the film has a weighted average score of 84 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[5] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[6]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote "Clint Eastwood pours everything he knows about directing into Mystic River. His film sneaks up, messes with your head, and then floors you. You can't shake it. It's that haunting, that hypnotic."[7]

Box office[edit]

The film earned $156,822,020 worldwide with $90,135,191 in the United States and $66,686,829 in the international box office, which is significantly higher than the film's $30 million budget.[2]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Academy Awards February 29, 2004 Best Picture Robert Lorenz, Judie G. Hoyt and Clint Eastwood Nominated [8]
Best Director Clint Eastwood Nominated
Best Actor Sean Penn Won
Best Supporting Actor Tim Robbins Won
Best Supporting Actress Marcia Gay Harden Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Brian Helgeland Nominated
American Cinema Editors 2004 Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic Joel Cox Nominated [9]
Art Directors Guild February 2004 Feature Film – Contemporary Film Henry Bumstead and Jack G. Taylor Jr. Won [10]
BAFTA Film Awards February 15, 2004 Best Actor in a Leading Role Sean Penn Nominated [11]
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Tim Robbins Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Laura Linney Nominated
Best Screenplay – Adapted Brian Helgeland Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics December 14, 2003 Best Film Won [12]
Best Ensemble Won
Cannes Film Festival May 14 – 25, 2003 Golden Coach Clint Eastwood Won [13]
Casting Society of America October 2004 Feature Film Won [14]
César Awards February 21, 2004 Best Foreign Film Won [15]
Critics' Choice Awards January 10, 2004 Best Picture Nominated [16][17]
Best Director Clint Eastwood Nominated
Best Actor Sean Penn Won
Best Supporting Actress Marcia Gay Harden Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Tim Robbins Won
Best Ensemble Nominated
Best Screenplay Brian Helgeland Nominated
Best Score Clint Eastwood Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association January 2004 Best Actor Sean Penn Won [18]
European Film Awards 6 December 2003 Best Non-European Film Nominated [19]
Florida Film Critics Circle January 2, 2004 Best Actor Sean Penn Won [20]
Best Supporting Actor Tim Robbins Won
Golden Globes January 25, 2004 Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated [21]
Best Director – Motion Picture Clint Eastwood Nominated
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Brian Helgeland Nominated
Best Actor in a Drama Sean Penn Won
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Tim Robbins Won
London Film Critics Circle February 11, 2004 Director of the Year Clint Eastwood Won [22]
Actor of the Year Sean Penn Won
National Board of Review December 3, 2003 Best Film Won [23]
Best Actor Sean Penn Won
National Society of Film Critics January 3, 2004 Best Film 2nd Place [24]
Best Director Clint Eastwood Won
Best Actor Sean Penn 2nd Place
Best Supporting Actor Tim Robbins 2nd Place
Best Screenplay Brian Helgeland 2nd Place
Satellite Awards January 23, 2004 Best Drama Film Nominated [25]
Best Director Clint Eastwood Nominated
Best Actor – Drama Sean Penn Won
Best Supporting Actress – Drama Marcia Gay Harden Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Brian Helgeland Won
Best Cinematography Tom Stern Nominated
Best Editing Joel Cox Nominated
Best Sound Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman Nominated
Screen Actors Guild February 22, 2004 Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Male Actor Tim Robbins Won [26]
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor Sean Penn Nominated
Outstanding Ensemble Nominated
Vancouver Film Critics Circle February 2, 2004 Best Actor Sean Penn Won [27]
Writers Guild of America February 21, 2004 Best Adapted Screenplay Brian Helgeland Nominated [28]


  1. ^ "MYSTIC RIVER (15)". British Board of Film Classification. September 10, 2003. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Mystic River". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 4, 2009.
  3. ^ a b Hughes, p.153
  4. ^ "Mystic River". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
  5. ^ "Mystic River Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 4, 2009.
  6. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Mystic River" in the search box). CinemaScore. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  7. ^ Eliot (2009), p.307
  8. ^ Hughes, p. 155
  9. ^ Dimond, Anna (February 14, 2013). "ACE Eddie noms show revealing splits from Oscars". Variety. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  10. ^ Mitchell, Courtney (February 2004). "Art directors honor 'River' and 'Rings'". Variety. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  11. ^ "Film in 2004". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  12. ^ "Boston honors Mystic River, Translation". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  13. ^ "Clint Eastwood: 60 years in film". The Daily Telegraph. October 2015. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  14. ^ Kamin, Debra (October 2004). "Kudos for casting". Variety. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  15. ^ "Barbarian plunders top Cesar prizes". Screen Daily. February 2004. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  16. ^ Feiwell, Jill (December 2003). "'Mystic,' 'In America' top B'cast Crix list". Variety. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  17. ^ "US critics give Rings four awards". BBC News. 11 January 2004. Archived from the original on 19 September 2016. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  18. ^ "Charlize Theron honored by Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics for Monster". The Advocate. January 2004. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  19. ^ Meza, Ed (December 7, 2003). "'Lenin' storms the house at Berlin's EFAs". Variety. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  20. ^ "2003 FFCC Award Winners". Florida Film Critics Circle. January 2004. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  21. ^ "Mystic River". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  22. ^ "Master And Commander sails off with London Critics awards". Screen Daily. February 2004. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  23. ^ "National Board of Review Says "Mystic River" is Tops For 2003". IndieWire. December 2003. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  24. ^ "Critics society names `Splendor' best film". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  25. ^ "2004 (8th Annual Satellite Awards)". International Press Academy. Archived from the original on December 18, 2008. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
  26. ^ "SAG Swept Away by "Mystic River"". E! Online. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  27. ^ "4th Annual Award Winners". Vancouver Film Critics Circle. 2 February 2004. Archived from the original on 13 September 2016. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  28. ^ "SAG, WGA awards lead into Oscar". CNN. February 20, 2004. Retrieved June 20, 2019.


External links[edit]