Ordinary People (1980)

DailyView: Day 346, Movie 493

This film made the list of Oscar winners when I was using the DailyView to watch Academy Award winners and I had wanted to watch it. The thing is the timing of watching Ordinary People just did not fit the schedule, until now.

Ordinary People tells the story of a single family, led by Calvin and Beth Jarrett (Donald Sutherland & Mary Tyler Moore), who were dealing with the death of their oldest son Buck (Scott Doebler) in a boating accident and the suicide attempt of their younger son Conrad (Timothy Hutton). Well, “dealing with” might be a stretch as Beth is emotionally distant from Conrad and Calvin is trying to find the place between them.

The film focuses on Conrad and his struggles after returning from a mental health hospital where he received treatments. Conrad was having difficulties with every day life and plagued by nightmares of his past. It is clear that he is on edge the entire film.

Finally, Conrad began seeing psychiatrist Doctor Berger (Judd Hirsch), giving him someone to talk to. The relationship between the two of them really carries through their scenes and provided both actors a chance to show what they had. In particular, a scene near the end of the film where Conrad had a breakthrough was powerfully impactful and brought tears to my eyes. Both Hutton and Judd were nominated for Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (with Hutton winning) and you can see why they deserved it in this scene.

Mary Tyler Moore played against her type so much as she was a mother who just could not find the connection with her surviving son. She loved Buck so much and when he died, she became more emotionally withdrawn. She is truly an unlikeable character and it is amazing that an actress as likeable as Mary Tyler Moore could pull this off.

The film begins with Pachalbel’s “Canon in D” (which I know through a humorous song about the tune) and is used throughout the film.

The title Ordinary People describes this film perfectly. These are real people dealing with their problems the way real people deal with them. It was not melodramatic despite the topics that it dealt with. It was a serious film with deeply flawed people trying to suffer through personal tragedies.

Robert Redford directed the film, receiving an Academy Award for Best Director. He brought emotion and deep feeling of dread while never losing the hope. I also liked how everything was not necessarily wrapped up neatly by the end of the film.

Ordinary People was a wonderful story that was difficult to watch at times, but always worthy and attention-grabbing.

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