There is no doubt that the modern vision of American urban communities is heavily influenced by the urban planning trend in the design of social spaces. Thus, the film Mystic River that depicts a set of tragedies and twists of fate in a Boston urban community also displays certain evidence of the dependence between the physical aspects of urban planning and the spirit of a certain living space. The urban planning patterns seem quite outdated in Boston, and they represent a gloomy picture of certain doom that surrounds the main characters of the film. As the plot unveils, the community spirit, the tradition and kinship existing in the modern Boston community shows the ways people are affected by their place of existence, and the ways they act in accordance with their perceived roles in those places.
The film Mystic River presents the viewer to the shabby urban community of Boston; the community depicted resides in the close proximity to the river, and the front sides of the houses in the district depicted show the signs of destruction by moist. The roads of the community have no signs of reparation within the past 20 years, and the number of street signs is limited to one ‘stop’ sign near the district school, and several designations of street names. The overall district shows the typology of pedestrian-centered community; there is never any sound of passing cars, and only one fragment of the film depicts a car coming up to Jimmy’s house.
The overall urban planning scheme of the district is very outdated, with lack of greenery in the living part, and a huge, desolated park in which any criminal can commit a crime and remain unnoticed. The evening and night fragments of the film show lack of lighting in the streets, which makes the district very dangerous for people being out of their houses in the dark. The scene with the murder of Dave also provides evidence of the numerous places in the district devoid of pedestrians, city lights, and any control. The overall spirit of the place is too gloomy, since people who live closely to each other may never know what happens in their neighborhood.
The flashbacks in the memory of characters serve as a clear illustration of physical degradation of the community. It is very symbolic to see the same streets thirty years ago and at present – one scene showing the two boys watching their friend who is being taken away by two criminals, and the one immediately following that scene, showing Jimmy wandering the streets and contemplating about the reasons for which the tragedy of a loss came to his family. The present scene explicitly shows that nothing has changed in the neighborhood for several decades, even the old, shabby sidewalk on which three boys carved their names shows absence of any restoration signs.
As Fanstein (2012) noted in her article about urban planning, it represents the “design and regulation of uses of space that focus on physical form, economic functions, and social impacts of the urban environment” (para. 1). Therefore, the film Mystic River shows the unique synergy of people and their community during their whole life. All characters of the movie have been living in that neighborhood since their birth; there are no newcomers, and every neighbor knows all other community members perfectly well. In addition, the fact that two main characters (two of the three friends, Jimmy and Dave) are related through their wives who are cousins is very illustrative of the way life is arranged in that particular neighborhood. People live the way they are prescribed to live, and follow some traditional rules, patterns, and laws that make them all valuable, active, and authentic members of their community. They do not like newcomers, and feel comfortable with the slow urban lifestyle they lead.
The community represents a tight social network; it is due to lack of mobility and the deep attachment to traditional lifestyle that all neighbors appear constantly in sight of one another, and everybody appears to be completely aware of all events taking place in the neighborhood. As a result of the present arrangement of the depicted neighborhood, people’s trust towards each other nevertheless does not increase; on the contrary, there is a shade of doubt, mistrust, misunderstanding, suspicion, and aggression between the main actors of Mystic River, which seems to reflect the crisis of urban planning that put the neighbors in a fairly stressful mode of co-existence.
The levels and patterns of urban crime are also considered in the framework of urban planning, and Mystic River is a sound example of showing how the destructive, failing, and degrading urban structure reveals its evils, the rotten places in its construction. Every community is an intricate combination of houses, roads, streets, facilities, and people residing in them, and using them. Thus, the high levels of crime in any region indicate the intensity of internal controversies affecting the neighborhood. The case of depicting child offenders, juvenile murderers, and the respected community member killing his friend and escaping punishment makes the dysfunctions explicit; this community’s residents endorse crimes due to their indifference, and care little about their neighbors despite their seemingly tight social connections.
Among the recommendations for the present community in terms of urban planning, one can name the improvement of the situation with street signs and lighting to make the district safer. In addition, the Penn Park in which the body of Katy was found also needs improvement; while houses crowd in narrow streets where two cars cannot drive at the same time, the huge unkempt park stands near the densely populated district; there are no delineated paths for walking, and the park seems forgotten by the municipal authorities. A proper arrangement of the park territory would give an opportunity for district inhabitants to walk with children there, to breathe fresh air, and to spend their pastime there, which is obviously not the case at the time the district is depicted. In addition, more safety measures have to be observed in the district itself; the scene with the parade shows that people watch it simply standing on the thresholds of their houses, which indicates lack of public places for gathering except the church. Thus, the public places should be organized, which would increase the mobility of people in the community, and would improve the situation in the streets of the neighborhood.
Eastwood, C. (Dir.) (2003). Mystic River. Warner Bros. Pictures, The USA.
Fainstein, S. S. (2012). Urban planning. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/619445/urban-planning