Somewhere Down the Mystic River

A review of the film, Mystic River, with a few Red Pill takeaways about the nature of relationships.

Readership: All; men vetting a woman;

Note: No (significant) spoilers in the first section.

I first saw the film, Mystic River, more than a decade ago.  At that time, it kept me captivated, ‘sitting on the edge of my seat’.  Now, I regard it as being a little before it’s time, in terms of its Red Pill accuracy.  Especially, the relationships portrayed between the main actors continues to stand out in my memory as being, tragically, spot-on REAL.

Mystic River is a 2003 American mystery drama film directed and scored by Clint Eastwood.  The screenplay by Brian Helgeland was based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane.  The film was produced by Robert Lorenz, Judie G. Hoyt, and Eastwood.  It is the first film on which Eastwood was credited as composer of the score.

The film opened to widespread critical acclaim.  It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best PictureBest DirectorBest ActorBest Adapted ScreenplayBest Supporting Actress, and Best Supporting Actor.  Sean Penn won Best Actor and Tim Robbins won Best Supporting Actor, making Mystic River the first film to win both awards since Ben-Hur in 1959.”

Sean Penn stars as James “Jimmy” Markum, a cruel and vindictive man who murders two men in the movie.  RP Diagnosis: Draconian Alpha tingulator.

Laura Linney appears as Annabeth Markum, a loving, submissive, obedient wife to Jimmy, who encourages and supports her husband, no matter what he’s done wrong.  RP Diagnosis: Unicorn wife.

Tim Robbins costars as Dave Boyle, an innocent, and relatively righteous man who has been abused his whole life.  He often struggles with crises of conscience.  RP Diagnosis: Nerve-wracked Beta.

Marcia Gay Harden depicts Celeste Samarco Boyle, the smarmy, nitpickety wife of Dave, who continually suspects his sanity, and chooses to believe the worst about him during uncertain circumstances.  RP Diagnosis: Feral, insecure termagant.

Also to mention, Kevin Bacon and Laurence Fishburne play the roles of Detective Sean Devine and Sergeant Whitey Powers, respectively, and excellently.

Even though this film has been out more than a decade, it’s still worth watching.  I highly recommend it, as I would most of Eastwood’s other work.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I don’t want to spoil it for you.  So for now, I’ll offer a couple video grabs that can give you a little taste of the relationships that Jimmy and Dave had with their wives.

Here is a snapshot of the relationship that Jimmy and Annabeth have.

Now here is a clip showing kind of relationship that Dave and Celeste have.

As you can see, it’s almost predictably true to Red Pill life.  I mean, the Alpha badboy lands the fawning, supportive wife, and the blithering Beta (or broken Beta in Dave’s case) gets stuck with the double-minded nag.

Warning: The following section contains information that may spoil your enjoyment of the movie if you haven’t seen it yet.  Please watch the movie before reading on.

jimmy markum mystic river

Framing the relationship dynamics in Mystic River

Although this is just a fictional movie, I feel it fairly represents a relational dynamic that we often see in real life – so much so in fact, that many RP theories revolve around these stereotypes.

As a comparison, we see the same arrangement in the TV series, Breaking Bad.  The meth chemist on the verge of death (Walter) has a traditional-type of wife (Skyler), and the good ol’ boy policeman (Hank) is married to a schizoid kleptomaniac in denial (Marie).

These incongruous pairings are not just figments of Hollywood.  They also show up in the Bible.

  • Job and his wifeJob is suspected to be Jobab ben Zerah, a wise, wealthy, and righteous king of ancient Edom, according to Genesis 36.  His first wife was an Arab who urged him to “curse God and die” when he was down and out.
  • Nabal and Abigail (1st Samuel 25) – Nabal was “harsh and evil”, while Abigail was “beautiful and understanding”.  (Blending Ame has been studying the relationship between Nabal and Abigail.  See the links appended below.)
  • Hosea and Gomer – Hosea was a prophet of God, and Gomer was a slore.
  • Ahasuerus and Esther – Ahasuerus was a wicked king of Persia, and Esther was a beautiful virgin and a courageous Hebrew.

In ancient times, we might dismiss such pairings as having been arranged, or occurring by necessity, but these mismatches continue to occur, even in modern times.

But has it ever been mentioned that this type of pairing is so perverse?  Namely, that one very virtuous person is often paired with another person who is rather corrupt?

As I was watching Mystic River, I kept thinking over and over, that these two couples are mismatched, and that they should swap partners.  I don’t mean swinging.  I mean, they should have married the other person’s partner, instead of their own.

Just think about it for a moment.

If Dave had married Annabeth, he would have gotten the respect, psychological affirmation and moral support he needed to heal from his past, develop a stronger conscience, and live a healthier, normal life.  He certainly would have avoided the betrayal by his wife, and being murdered by his ‘friend’.

If Jimmy had married Celeste, it’s hard to say what would have happened.  I like to believe that their errant, rebellious natures would have self-destructed, and they would have been forced to look beyond themselves and learn to love selflessly.

Somehow, this too is part of the lore that people are drawn into relationships that magnify the worst aspects of themselves, and avoid any exposure to the type of stimuli that would harness their best selves and spur them on to greatness.

But going back to reality, there is the matchup hurdle.

  • Would a man like Jimmy, who’s confident in his masculinity, even tolerate a nag like Celeste?
  • Would a scrupulous woman like Celeste even go for an ex-con like Jimmy?
  • Would Dave ever develop the courageous optimism required to contain Annabeth’s Tingles?
  • Could Annabeth ever be content with Dave’s confusion and indecisiveness?
  • Would a man like Walt, who has principles and a strong sense of purpose, be able to accept a wild-card woman like Marie?
  • Could Marie ever find the freedom to “be herself” around Walt?
  • Would Hank be bored with the straight-laced Skyler?
  • Would a woman like Skyler be satisfied with a guy like Hank?

No way…  Somehow, they just don’t match.

There must be a motivation for people to marry one particular person over all others.  So, other than the all-powerful Tingles, why do nice, attractive girls go for Mr. Chadwick Ed?

There may be any number of reasons.  But here’s a platitudinous explanation that I’ve heard repetitively, and have seen some evidence of it’s accuracy.

“Good” people may choose to marry “bad” people in order to protect their psychological identity as a relatively “good” person.  They can also let their Dirty Harry spouse deal with the morally messy issues which they would prefer to avoid.  On the other foot, “bad” people choose to marry “good” people because of the forgiveness, blessings, and grace that become available to them through that person.

There’s also an element of power and control.  The person who has fewer moral scruples and a willingness to bend or break the rules, will always come out ahead in the power game.  Women know this intuitively, and therefore choose the bad @ss, knowing that he has a tactical advantage over the common nice guy.

What a difference a woman can make

The Reframe

The Frame outlined in the previous section is somewhat misleading.  It’s a logical trap to jump to the conclusion that one person in the relationship is “good”, and the other is “bad”.  We tend to think that the person who conforms to the norm, or who adheres to a standardized code of morality is the better person.  Or we might believe that the person having the set of values and life experiences that more closely matches our own is the “good” person.

But this is a false dichotomy.  We don’t know the whole story, and we don’t know how the union will grow or change over time.

There are Biblical examples of couples who seemed like an odd combination, but then things turned out fine.

  • Salmon and Rahab – Salmon was a Hebrew spy, and Rahab was a gentile prostitute.  But they became the great-great-grandparents of King David.
  • Boaz and Ruth – Boaz, who was the son of Salmon and Rahab, was a man of great wealth, and Ruth was an impoverished widow of foreign birth.  They became the great-grandparents of King David.

For the record, there are Biblical examples of couples who seemed like perfect matches, but then one turned bad.

  • David and Michal – At first, Michal was very much in love with David, but then she presumably committed adultery with Palti (AKA Paltiel), and then later cursed David and died childless.
  • Solomon and the Shunammite – The perfect love story that spawned the Song of Solomon.  But Solomon’s wives led him into idolatry.

There are also Biblical examples of couples who were both corrupt.

  • Ahab and Jezebel – An epically evil pair of sardonic idolaters who persecuted the prophets and did various acts of evil throughout their lives.
  • Ananias and Sapphira – In Acts 5:1-5, they conspired to withhold funds that they promised to donate to the church.

Now, let’s take another look at the main characters in Mystic River from this perspective.

It’s easy to dismiss Celeste as a low-quality, emotionally soft, untenable woman, but she had strong convictions.  Her deeper values reached for a convoluted combination of justice and playing the savior.  These traits catered to Dave’s brokenness, making him feel compassionately accepted by her, but which actually led to his downfall.  Although she may have been a good woman, she wasn’t a good wife.  Ultimately, her values proved to be misappropriated, so she never developed a habit of being spiritually obedient.  Under the spell of her false notions, she actively destroyed her husband, and her life disintegrated as a result.  In the end, she betrayed him and this instigated his death.

It’s easy to label Annabeth as a loving, supportive wife to be envied.  To her credit, she chose a life that fit her values, and had learned to submit to her husband.  She also reaped the benefits of being obedient, and enjoyed having a warm, intimate relationship with her husband.

However, her deeper values didn’t align with her outward appearance.  Although she may have been a good wife, she wasn’t a good woman.  She could have wielded her influence to discourage Jimmy from murdering innocent men, but instead, she colluded with him in the cover up.

In actuality, Annabeth was hybristophilic.  She worshipped the security and privileges that came with power.  She chose Jimmy because of the power that he exuded.  She developed her feminine powers to reap the benefits of landing and keeping an alpha husband.  She chose to offer her feminine wiles to support the top dog, and keep him on top, for better or for worse.  To her, his mistakes and iniquities could always be forgiven as long as he was the dominant, Tingle-inducing husband.  But I can imagine, if he ever lost this status, she may very well monkey branch to the next alpha.  Or if the Wall had already damaged her marketability, then she would become a nagging shrew, just like Celeste.

With all this in mind, are we still able to think of her as a “good catch”?

No… Not even for Jimmy, because her skills at being a good wife were merely coopted to enable the worst of his nature.

Bonnie and Clyde Barrow

Bonnie and Clyde Barrow

Relationships have a deep impact on people

The traditional mythology of “True Love” commonly stipulates that marrying “that special someone” can and should transform your life for the better.  Granted, this does happen, but instead of being the norm, it’s the rare exception that comes by the grace of God.  It is much more common for people to discover that their marriage fails to bring blessing, and instead, beckons forth the demons from within themselves.

There is a large body of lore that depicts how people are drawn into relationships that (1) magnify the worst aspects of themselves, and/or (2) serve to shield them from any exposure to the type of stimuli that would harness their best selves and spur them on to greatness.

Consider Whitney Houston.  During all the years of her stardom, she carried a pristine image of an ideal role model.  She was heavily criticized for choosing to marry the wrong man, Bobby Brown, a drug-addled, ghetto-trash parvenu.  But Whitney Houston’s sad, secret life was revealed to the public eye after her untimely death.  An autopsy showed cocaine, marijuana, and a host of other prescription drugs in her body.  It was also revealed that she had had a homosexual affair with her assistant for decades.  Perhaps Bobby Brown was the right wrong man for her, after all.

Another way to think of these relational dynamics is that people are drawn to marry the person who brings out those aspects of their fundamental natures which they love and cherish the most about themselves – for better or for worse!

Consider the examples mentioned before.

  • Jimmy and Annabeth were both strong, confident personalities.  They both aspired to dominate any power dynamic at hand.  Having a mutual acceptance of their morally unconscionable motives, they remained staunchly loyal to each other.  In spite of their transgressions, I daresay they fit the mold of God’s natural hierarchy, and reaped the many benefits thereof.
  • Dave and Celeste were both broken, emotionally insecure, and psychologically unstable. They were both conscientious and well-intentioned, but also disconnected and misguided.  Although they were ostensibly decent, law-abiding people, they failed to play their respective roles within God’s natural order, and their lives were destroyed as a consequence.
  • Walt and Skyler were totally dedicated to the well-being of their family, and their financial security, and they were even willing to go to criminal measures to protect that.
  • Hank and Marie both had a deep love for life, and lived passionately on the edge – Hank through his adventures as a policeman, and Marie through her misadventures and skirting the law.
  • Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown were highly talented, hard-core hedonists who loved the limelight and a materialistic lifestyle.


In the real world, there’s something deeper and more fundamental that brings certain people together.  Your deepest values, and what you love most about yourself, are the qualities that are amplified through your spouse, and broadcast to the world.  It’s important to fisk that out in order to know yourself, and sooner is better than later.

  • If you choose a person who agrees with your better values, then this can enhance your relationship, and brighten your identities.
  • If you choose a person who brings out your worst values, then this may or may not enhance your relationship, but it will darken your character.
  • If you don’t choose a person who matches your characteristic values, then you’re walking into a conflict-laden existence.  This is unlikely to change until one or both of you change your fundamental values.  In addition to the stress of constant conflict, changing yourself is an exhausting undertaking that is very difficult or impossible to do.  If one is willing to go through the change, then only the love of God, or else their depraved desires, can pull them through to accomplish this.  The nature of the relationship strongly influences which one takes precedence.

The heavy takeaway for singles:  When vetting a partner, be well aware of what a potential partner brings out of you.  Marrying this person will cause that aspect of your character to be manifested and amplified for the rest of your life, thereby forming your eternal identity.  Ask for the opinions of your friends and family, and compare their impressions to your own.  This will help you avoid any blind spots about the relationship.  Know what you’re getting into, and how that might change you and your life.

The heavy takeaway for marrieds:  Attentive people often size up a person by what kind of wife (or husband) they have.  Are you aware of what your wife (or husband) conveys about your character as a man (or woman)?  If you took some time to identify the ways in which you match your partner, you might gain some important insights about yourself.


About Jack

Jack is a world traveling artist, skilled in trading ideas and information, none of which are considered too holy, too nerdy, nor too profane to hijack and twist into useful fashion. Sigma Frame Mindsets and methods for building and maintaining a masculine Frame
This entry was posted in Choosing a Partner or Spouse, Collective Strength, Conserving Power, Discerning Lies and Deception, Discernment, Wisdom, Female Power, Love, Male Power, Maturity, Personal Growth and Development, Models of Failure, Models of Success, Relationships, Self-Concept, The Power of God, Vetting Women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Somewhere Down the Mystic River

  1. Stephanie says:

    I think the best coupling is when the couple are similar in their tastes and manners, but with the man being wiser one and more, “on point.” I don’t think if a woman is wiser, that it’s going to work out well for either of them… either she’ll become self-righteous and look down on him, or lead by default at times.

    I can firmly say my husband is better in so many ways, but he loves that I try, and he actually does improve me and inspire me to be better for him! When we watched Emma the first time years ago, it was hilariously close to our relationship and what it looks like 😀 !!! I’ve even tried several times (since I was in elementary school) to play match-maker, and it’s ALWAYS turned out horribly. The way Emma has to constantly admit Mr. Knightly was right, we have that in our relationship, too, and it makes for fun romance believe it or not 🙂 !

    Here’s a clip giving a brief look into their relationship

    And here’s a clip where he corrects her and she cries because disappointing him is SO utterly disappointing to her! Women who fear shaming their fathers growing up, are like this with their husbands I’ve found. They really do not want to look bad in their eyes, I’ve felt this personally…


  2. Pingback: Men’s Fantasy of Emotional Intimacy | Σ Frame

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