The Reel Review


When the oldest son of an affluent Chicago family dies in a tragic boating accident, it strains the relationship between the guilt-ridden, surviving younger son, the good-natured father and the bitter, resentful mother. Timothy Hutton, Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland star in this 1980 family-in-peril drama, which won four Oscars – for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Hutton), Best Director (Robert Redford) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Alvin Sargent).

Mary Tyler Moore and Timothy Hutton in Ordinary People

Ordinary People is gut wrenching, heartbreaking and highly relatable to anyone shattered by the tragic death of a family member. Working from a script that took two and a half years to adapt from Judith Guest’s novel, director Robert Redford, in his directorial debut, rips at the heartstrings. He also reintroduces Pachelbel’s Canon into the modern-day music lexicon.

Judd Hirsch and Timothy Hutton in Ordinary People

Career defining performances abound – Hutton in his film debut as the suicidal, PTSD-riddled son, Moore as the icy, cold mother who blames him for the death of her favorite son, Sutherland as the father caught in the middle, and Judd Hirsch as the psychiatrist who helps the boy navigate through his emotional struggles. Ordinary People is a tough but rewarding watch, illustrating how everyone grieves differently and how families divide when they can’t recognize each other’s grieving mechanisms. Oscar got this one so very right.


Oscar winner Timothy Hutton flanked by presenters Mary Tyler Moore and Jack Lemmon

• When he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Ordinary People, 20-year-old Timothy Hutton became the youngest actor to win the award.

• Robert Redford says he chose the normally sunny dispositioned Mary Tyler Moore for the role of Beth after seeing her in a serious, contemplative mood while alone on the beach that bridged their properties. Moore, who received a Best Actress Oscar nomination, called the role “the Holy Grail of my career.”

• Judd Hirsch won the role of the eccentric psychiatrist only after Richard Dreyfus, Gene Hackman and Donald Sutherland turned down the part.


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