Ordinary People Synopsis This movie is very real and heartbreaking. The portrayal of emotions and character feelings is acted very well. You can identify and relate with each of the characters on a personal level. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, the movie portrays a “normal” family and brings insights into the hidden dynamics of the family. The reality is that there is a lot going on in the background of the family and it is dealt with in a lackadaisical manner full of denial and ignorance without proper communication and supports.
Social status is very important as indicated by the cocktail parties, involvement in school activities, and the social aspects of Beth and her friends over the issues and problems going on with Conrad. The movie accurately portrays the real details of what goes on behind the facades people put up for the benefit of others. Beth, the mother, is portrayed as a socialite more concerned with status and image than family. She is a cold and distant wife incapable of showing love or acceptance of her one living son.
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She cannot deal with the grief and loss of her other son. She is unable to show emotion towards him, and this is very disturbing. Her behaviors, actions, and conversations towards Conrad break your heart. Beth idolized her first born son, and is reminded of the pain of loss every time she sees Conrad and distances herself from him as a coping mechanism to deal with her grief and loss. She blames Conrad for the death of Buck although it is not stated outwardly. He committed the ultimate sin, he survived and her favorite son did not.
She is so distant and avoidant of meaningful interaction with Conrad, and minimizes her actions. Conrad desperately seeks love and acceptance, and forgiveness from his mother. Beth seems to blame Conrad for her loss. The interactions are strained and awkward as Beth avoids her son and he tries so hard to get any kind of recognition or show of affection from her. The scene at the golf course and at the end of the movie brings you to the realization that it is impossible for her to show affectionate love and it is easier to run away from her problems than to deal with them.
Calvin, the dad, is extremely passive in his interactions with Conrad and his wife. He tries to make up for the shortcomings of his wife by being passive, warm, forgiving, and affectionate. I think he adopts the happy-go-lucky persona as a means of dealing with his own feelings of guilt and shortcomings as a father and husband. He wants to keep his family together, but is insecure and unsure how. Him going to see Dr. Berger is insightful and sets the stage for change for the family as he comes to terms with feelings he has been denying.
Conrad is a troubled teen dealing with grief, loss, depression, anxiety, ortrayed as the troubled teen in a middle-class family focused on everything but the real problems within. Conrad is tortured and experiencing extreme guilt over the death of his brother and his depression is all-consuming. Conrad struggles within his family to seek acceptance and love from his mother and wants structure and limits from his father. Dr. Berger, the psychiatrist is a nonconventional psychoanalyst. He is portrayed as very non-typical and does not fit the stereotypes of Hollywood psychiatrist.
Conrad calls him and starts talking with him and his unconventional methodologies seem to keep Conrad guessing. At first Conrad says he wants to gain control, but in actuality I think what he really wants in to not feel the pain and to be rid of his guilt as he feels responsible. Ultimately, he helps Conrad to understand his mother’s pain and shortcomings. Conrad gains confidence through his interactions with Dr. Berger as he tries to keep his family together. He comes to the realization that much of his familys problems have to do with his mother and her love for Buck.