A must-watch due to its pedigree as the winner of Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actor at the 1981 Academy Awards, I hadn't actually any idea what Ordinary People was about until reading the synopsis on the case. It was with a slight sense of dread I wondered what I was letting myself in for, but I was rewarded with something subtly remarkable.
Redford's directorial debut is a quiet drama, packed with explosive
moments. Pacing slowly through the opening, Ordinary People
allows the audience to piece together its subject matter one strained
conversation or nightmare flashback at a time, until it's apparent we're
exploring a changed family dynamic after a tragic death.
it's emotional, but the authentic tone and sensitive handling avoids
melodrama or sentimentality. The characters truly are ordinary, next
door types, (albeit in a very nice neighbourhood!) with real worries and problems, ripped apart by their differing ways of dealing with their grief.
Delving into the ways they handle their feelings and examining guilt, avoidance, over-compensation, openness and deflection, Ordinary People
takes place in a time when it wasn't "nice" to talk about your
problems, and brings to the fore the need for communication, even when
it's hard to talk. A brilliant take on grief and depression.
If Ordinary People looks at grief and communication amongst teens and adults, sweetly nostalgic Stand By Me does
the same for children. Again, it's the loss of an older brother
overshadowing the story, but in this case, it's twelve-year-old Gordie's
friends who pull him through.