The movie Ordinary People directed by Robert Redford is a very real life movie set in the suburbs of Illinois in the late 1970s. The movie begins early December and ends what seems to me like the following spring. I think the significance of the seasons is that December, representing a dreary lifeless mood, at least for the northwest region, symbolizes death. During this time, Conrad experiences many confrontations with this matter. He has recently witnessed the death of his brother and is struggling to make his appearance seem normal. When the weather begins to get warmer, setting a more renewed atmosphere, Conrad begins to understand his emotions and, therefore, deals with the circumstances of his brothers death better.
Conrad Jarrett, the protagonist, is a seventeen-year-old student attending a public high school. Conrad represents more of a heroic figure in this story because he has begun to overcome the overwhelming obstacles of life. This complex individual realizes that love gives one the strength to endure life. However, Con must struggle to cope with the drastic changes occurring in his life. His struggle against these obstacles is the antagonist in the story.
Other important characters include Cons mother, Beth; Cons father, Calvin; Cons psychiatrist, Dr.Berger; his friend Karen, and his somewhat girlfriend Jeannine. Beth, a determined perfectionist, is constantly concerned with the way people view her and her family. She wishes for everyone to view her family as normal. She buried all her love with Buck and, therefore, neglects Conrad because she no longer understands how to love. Beth feels that Con had intended to hurt her as much as himself when he had tried to commit suicide. She can only see things in terms of how they affect her, a very selfish mindset. Beth thinks that everyone feels this way and that perhaps she is simply more honest about it. At one point of the movie, Beth states that she does not hate Con for what he has done, but she cannot forgive him for it. In a way, it seems she can not forgive him for surviving. On the flip side of the movie, Calvin or Cal, struggles to understand how he should react to his sons feelings and actions. Cal feels as if Beth and Con are drifting away in opposite directions, and he doses not know which direction to follow. Cons self confident psychiatrist, Dr.Berger, helps con to express his feelings and encourages him to do what he wants instead of what people expect him to do. Berger is unorganized and spontaneous which works to the benefit of Conrad. Con finds comfort in Bergers friendship and his willingness to listen. Karen is also a valued friend of Conrad. She was in the hospital at the same time he was, and they helped each other get through the hard times. When Con left the hospital, they lost contact until he called her one-day and they met in a restaurant. When talking with Conrad, Karen displays a false sense of enthusiasm for the coming years. Later on in the movie Conrad is shocked when he finds out Karen has committed suicide. This event causes Con to release all his suppressed anguish and let down his shield to his emotions. Jeannine is Conrads somewhat girlfriend who is there for him and allows him to feel needed, a feeling Con cant seem to find even in his friends at school. She is the only person who really asks Con about what he had felt when he tried to commit suicide.
The major conflict in the movie is an internal one between Con and himself. Conrad struggles to cope with the drastic changes occurring in his life. He wants to please everyone. Con will not allow himself to feel or express emotion for fear of becoming vulnerable. There are many other minor conflicts that occur within the story. One example is an external conflict between Conrad and Beth. Con and his mother find it hard to communicate for the fact that both are too unwilling and stubborn to forgive each other. Also, Beth and Calvin experience an external conflict because of the circumstances have caused them to grow apart, and question their love for one another. Conrad also experiences problems with his friends. Conrad, in this external conflict, Discovers that most of his friends are what he calls pricks. They do not understand why Cons actions and reactions toward them have changed.
These conflicts lead up to the turning point, I believe, in the movie in which Con discovers that he must forgive himself and his mother. During therapy, Con states, I think I just figured something out.
Whats that? Berger states.
Who it is who cant forgive who. Conrad replies.
After Con forgives himself, his days become better and better. He is now stronger and has more control over his emotions. Con allows himself to feel happiness, along with severe pain. At the same, Cal and Beth grow further apart, and Beth eventually leaves the house. They are indecisive about the feelings they have for one another. The high point of the movie begins with Cal telling Conrad, Well, dont admire people too much, they disappoint you sometimes.
Im not disappointed, Con says. I love you man.
I love you too. Cal returns.
The movie ends, and by watching this movie and reviewing it in this sense, I have discovered that no matter how down I may feel, at least I am feeling something, and that means that I can also feel happiness. I have also developed a new appreciation for those who must deal with the conflicts of death and depression. I think that anyone who can hang on to life throughout the difficult times is extremely strong and respectable. I have also come to appreciate the advantages that I have, compared to those who must deal with depression and other misfortune. I think I will always remember Conrads character simply because he eventually came to appreciate the good effects of feelings despite all he has been through.