Ordinary People

Directed By

RDrama /  / Sep 19, 1980 (New York)

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Robert Redford made his Oscar-winning directorial debut with this highly acclaimed, poignantly observant drama (based on the novel by Judith Guest) about a well-to-do family's painful adjustment to tragedy. Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland play a seemingly happy couple who lose the older of their two sons to a boating accident; Timothy Hutton plays the surviving teenage son, who blames himself for his brother's death and has attempted suicide to end his pain. They live in a meticulously kept home in an affluent Chicago suburb, never allowing themselves to speak openly of the grief that threatens to tear them apart. Only when the son begins to see a psychiatrist (Judd Hirsch) does the veneer of denial begin to crack, and Ordinary People thenceforth directly examines the broken family ties and the complexity of repressed emotions that have festered under the pretense of coping. Superior performances and an Oscar-winning script by Alvin Sargent make this one of the most uncompromising dramas ever made about the psychology of dysfunctional families. There are moments--particularly related to Mary Tyler Moore's anguished performance as a woman incapable of expressing her deepest emotions--when this film is both intensely involving and heartbreakingly real. No matter how happy and healthy your upbringing was, there's something in this excellent film that everyone can relate to. --Jeff Shannon

Ordinary People won 4 Oscars at the
1981 Academy Awards