Father (Donald Sutherland), Son (Timothy Hutton), Mother (Mary Tyler Moore)

The film begins with several shots of beauty: a dock, a park, the ocean, a bridge, a suburban street, a gazebo, and a school. Within that school is a choir. We are shown several faces before we settle on Conrad (Timothy Hutton). Soon we know that something isn’t right with Conrad, but what’s wrong is revealed through flashbacks and subtly through numerous prosaic suburban sequences. Conrad had a brother who died and the results reveal how people feel the need to appear normal, ordinary as the title says, even in the face of such tragedy.

Conrad deals with it through an attempted suicide and subsequent hospitalization, but it takes him some time to warm up to the idea of seeing a psychiatrist back in the “real world”. Calvin (Donald Sutherland) tries to keep up the regular grind, but is sympathetic to Conrad’s inability to do so. Beth (Mary Tyler Moore) tries to act as if nothing happened and goes so far as to persecute those who try to do otherwise.

My favorite scene is when Calvin confronts Beth about the funeral of their son. Beth had told him not to wear a particular pair of shoes that day and for years it has bothered him as to why the hell it mattered what he was wearing on his feet when they were going to their son’s funeral.

This was a hard film for me to watch because of my personal history, but I do recommend it.

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