Starring: Timothy Hutton, Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Judd Hirsch
Directorial debut for Robert Redford, this film cleaned up at the Oscars that year, and with good reason. A subtle drama involving a family struggling to cope with the loss of their eldest boy through an accident. The mother is trying to maintain normality, the father is struggling to keep them together, and the son is carrying a burden of guilt so large it threatens to drown him. When the boy is referred to a counsellor following a suicide attempt, he starts to break down his feelings, and things start to change.
What’s clear is that everyone processes grief in different ways, and this film explores the way in which people often swallow uncomfortable emotions, or don’t know how to express them. It’s not easy to face sadness or despair, or indeed guilt and anger. The son, Conrad, is doing many things to please his parents and be socially acceptable, but he is not the same person he was before the accident. His mother is struggling to forgive him, as he was not her favourite son and was there during the accident, surviving when his brother didn’t. The father is more warm, gentle, but his concern for his son is not always welcomed, by either member of his family, and he has his own feelings to process.
It’s a Must See Film Because: it’s so subtle. In life, people often don’t talk about their feelings, they unconsciously show them, often struggling to figure them out and this film is masterful is doing the same. So much of what occurs is not said, it’s shown. And the inability to speak, to express emotion and say unpalatable, uncomfortable truths and let things go are all explored here. The social need to present everything as being fine, as though things are normal, the shame of not being ok, of not coping, is also explored here. It’s an impressive and beautiful film, with genuine emotion and feeling.
See It If: you’re looking for more subtle, real drama and insight into grieving and family. It’s truly moving stuff.