Mystic River

Movie: Directed by Clint Eastwood.

Inciting Event: Dave comes home at 3AM with a gash on his chest. He tells his wife he was mugged and that he thinks he may have accidentally killed the mugger—but his facts don’t quite line up. Shortly after, Jimmy’s daughter Katie’s abandoned car is found with the door ajar and the seat bloodstained.

One interesting thing worth noting here is how the crucial opening scene—Dave’s abduction as a child—is not the main conflict’s Inciting Event. It’s the first pertinent scene, and therefore the story’s hook, but it is not the trigger for the conflict that will drive the rest of the story. Katie’s murder is that trigger, and thus the Inciting Event.

First Plot Point: The homicide detective Sean discovers Katie’s body. Her father Jimmy, having recognized her car, is on the scene and promptly learns of her death. The Normal World is over. Katie’s death changes everything and plunges all the characters into the “adventure world” of the main conflict.

First Pinch Point: The pinch point here is very subtle, almost nonexistent. I’m identifying it as the scene in which Dave tells his son the bedtime story about “the boy in the woods,” which represents Dave’s own nightmares and (perhaps) darker nature. Again, his wife stumbles upon inconsistencies in his story about the mugging. The intent is obviously that Dave’s involvement with Katie’s death is perhaps suspicious.

Midpoint: After a less-than-forthcoming interview with Dave, Sean reluctantly agrees to consider Dave a suspect in the murder. This new “information” switches the entire focus of the story, as more and more pressure comes to bear on Dave.

Second Pinch Point: Celeste—already even more paranoid about Dave’s whereabouts on the night of the murder, after talking to Sean—returns home one night to find Dave rambling freakily about vampires, child prostitutes, and his own past. She is afraid of him, and this cements in her mind the idea that he must have killed Katie.

Third Plot Point: Celeste tells Jimmy she believes Dave killed Katie.

Climax: Jimmy confronts Dave, insisting he admit to the murder—or Jimmy will kill him, as he already killed the father of Katie’s boyfriend long ago. Meanwhile, Katie’s boyfriend Brendan has figured out that the true murderers were his younger brother Silent Ray and his friend. He confronts them and demands they tell him the truth.

Climactic Moment: Jimmy kills Dave; Sean arrests Silent Ray and his friend.

Resolution: Sean tells Jimmy that Silent Ray was really the killer. Sean realizes Jimmy must have killed Dave. Meanwhile, Sean’s estranged wife finally speaks to him. Final “closing characteristic moment” for all the characters at the parade in the final scene.

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