Ordinary People (1980) Review


A family struggling to cope with the tragic accidental death of the oldest son, as they must live on whilst not communicating with one another very well.

Considering this film actually won the Best Picture Oscar which seems a little strange considering I did not really know very much about this film at all before watching it. The first film Robert Redford stepped behind the camera for with a very solid and talented cast.

The biggest focus on the story is with Conrad and how he has been away somewhere, we slowly find out that he tried to kill himself and was in a hospital trying to learn how to deal with his grief in the loss of his older brother. The brother in which he is convinced his mother loved more than she does him.

Beth and Calvin find a massive strain on their marriage as they try to cope with losing a son and almost losing their youngest son as well. Something which has not been kind to either of them and certainly left Beth in limbo in terms of her character and attitude towards her husband who is doing his best to try and keep them all together. Trying to solve the problems between Conrad and Beth, something which is more difficult with more passing time.

As Conrad tries to fit back in at school he becomes friendly with a girl Karen and everything seems pretty normal between them. I won’t spoil what happens with them but I was certainly very shocked and wondered if the film could even get any sadder?

It is a drama that is certainly filled with plenty of emotion with an Oscar winning performance from Timothy Hutton (well deserved) and it will leave you wondering how much grief and sadness your family could handle before it would all fall apart and you would turn on each other.

I thought the way Beth could not cope with it was the saddest part as she just wanted to go on as though Buck did not really ever exist. Constantly changing the subject and not wanting to talk about anything he used to do or what happened to him. That is something the film offers, how people deal with grief differently.

Donald Sutherland put in another fantastic performance as Calvin the father who was desperate to help his younger son and was supportive that he was seeing a therapist. That gave for some very interesting and scene stealing scenes. It just shows that we cannot compare how awful events in life can effect us as it is very different for each individual.

I am pleased that I have caught up with this film as part of the Best Picture Project, it really was an emotional journey and experience from start to finish. It felt so real at times that it was like watching an actual family going through the grief and trauma surrounding it all.

9 thoughts on “Ordinary People (1980) Review

  1. Haven’t watched this film for some time but I do remember it as being a worthy Oscar winner. Strong performances including Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey) and who herself was Oscar nominated for her role in Ragtime (1981).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Didn’t really watch Downton either! I noticed she was also on Sky TV’s coverage of the Oscars this year (on the sofa with the other “experts”!!)

    Liked by 1 person

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