9. Ordinary People. This 1980 release marks the first film directed by Robert Redford, and what an intense debut it is. Based on the 1976 novel by Judith Guest this dramatisation stars Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Judd Hirsch, and Timothy Hutton.
Let me start by saying this story is not for the psychologically squeamish (if there is such a thing). It holds no punches in its unflinching investigation and dissection of a family’s psychological trauma.
We see here as the plot unfolds an upper middle class American family in the midst of an irreversible disintegration. The younger brother Conrad has recently been discharged home from a psychiatric ward after an attempted suicide caused by survivors guilt after his older brother Buck died in a boating accident. Buck was the golden boy adored by everyone he met and was the central joy of his mother Beths life. She is a shallow status obsessed socialite who holds a covert dominance over her husband Calvin. He is a naturally sanguine character, but lacks any real sense of autonomy and tries to do right by everyone. This family dynamic sets up an environment conducive to producing the _NF_ personality type in the younger son.
With such extreme circumstances each family member becomes estranged from one another and have to find individual strategies and coping mechanisms to be able to continue to function as a faltering and disembodied unit.
As we continue to watch the family grind along in their daily struggle we see the cracks widen as Conrad tries to come to terms with yet more hardship as he goes through therapy and tries to reconnect with the real world.
Meanwhile his father Calvin has to face the reality of his failing marriage to his wife and accept the truth that their whole relationship is based on a pretence and weakness of character.
Beths life is now focused primarily on keeping up appearances and attending all the right functions, fighting back her own repressed feelings whilst portraying a facade of normality to her peers.
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