Timing is a key, if somewhat elusive, component of Oscar viability, and few films in the race are benefiting from it more than Todd Field’s “In the Bedroom.” In any year, the helmer’s quietly realized drama of family tragedy and human response would be visible on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences radar.

The ensemble and individual performances have been singled out for their rare quality of insight, subtlety and power. It was one of the few widely embraced films at this year’s Sundance fest, where co-stars Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson were joint recipients of the acting prize; helpfully, the cast contains two past Oscar winners — Spacek and Marisa Tomei; and the film follows in the tradition of such disparate past winners and nominees as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” “Rachel, Rachel,” “Sounder,” “The Conversation,” “The Deer Hunter,” “Kramer vs. Kramer,” “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Ordinary People,” “Tender Mercies,” “Places in the Heart,” “The Accidental Tourist” and “American Beauty.”

What these films share with “Bedroom” is the exploration of the interior lives of its characters, undergoing tragedies and transformations on the most intimate level.

But “Bedroom” has a particular advantage this year since few studio films have emerged as best picture material. Supported by some of the strongest reviews of the year and centering on universal themes involving the American family, it appears even stronger when placed in the notably weak field of potential nominees.

This is not to detract from the strength of Field’s film; but in another year, when enough regarded studio movies would crowd the field — and benefit from big-dollar publicity — an uncompromising indie work like “Bedroom” would have a much tougher time. And in getting the word out, it hardly hurts that this is an end-of-the-year Miramax release, a particular entity with a solid Oscar track record.

Also, as with Miramax’s “The Crying Game,” the movie contains shocking revelations that raise topical issues and get audiences talking.

Noms Watch

  • Picture: Producers Todd Field, Ross Katz, Graham Leader

  • Director: Field

  • Adapted screenplay: Robert Festinger, Field

  • Actress: Sissy Spacek

  • Actor: Tom Wilkinson

  • Supporting actress: Marisa Tomei

  • Music: Thomas Newman
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