“Don’t ever, not ever, never, never, never, open the door in the floor.”
Simply put, THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR is one of the best films from the previous decade. It is small, intimate and arousing. Set in present day in New England, the film follows a young man, Eddie, who is set to graduate from a prestigious prep school, Exeter Academy, the same school where Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges) went, and his two deceased teenage sons went as well. The intent of Eddie’s summer is meant to be spent interning for Ted, Ted was a novelist who became a popular children’s writer, and Eddie is an aspiring writer himself. As the summer moves along, revelations are made, tragedy, old and new are summoned, and a love affair between Ted’s wife Marion (Kim Basinger) and Eddie formulates.
This film is tough. Pain, love, loss and isolation surface almost immediately. Marion never got over the death of their two sons, and Ted has transformed the pain into raising their young daughter Ruth (Elle Fanning) and working on a new children’s book featuring his recurring characters, Thomas and Timothy which are hauntingly named after their two sons who died.
Jeff Bridges gives him most vicious and turbulent performance as Ted. He is an alcoholic philanderer who emotionally uses people, and softly degrades them. Basinger gives her finest performance as the broken and stoic Marion, who has never fully recovered from the loss of their two sons, and who uses Eddie sexually as a vessel to channel her pain.
There are few, but the scenes between Bridges and Basinger are absolutely beautiful. These two characters are so broken, and everything they have been through together was only sustainable by their love for each other. Even though it is not expressed physically, nor shown at all, you can feel how pure it is, how undying it is.
So many films are made about love, and very few can express it the way THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR does. Pure love at times messy, filled with pain, and beautifully tragic and this film is an absolute visual and musical interpretation of that love. The film is beautifully shot by Terry Stacey, and remarkably scored by Marcelo Zaruos. The film’s score is as important as any other aspect of the film, it does not arbitrarily show up and is not easily ignored. It is designed to provoke an emotional reaction in a scene of a film that is layered with joyous yet heartbreaking emotion.
The film’s title is taken from Ted’s most famous children’s book, which upon watching him read it to an audience, and seeing the dark drawings of the book (which Bridges drew himself), it is perhaps the most intense children’s book ever written. The film begs a question to the audience. Have you opened your own door in the floor? Will you open your own door in the floor? Will you face your own desires, your fears? Will you come to terms with the realities of everything that you love, everything that you hate? It is simple for anyone to open the door in the floor, but not many can withstand what comes through it.