Review #12 Kramer vs. Kramer

(1979)

Directed by- Robert Benton

Starring- Dustin Hoffman, Merryl Streep and Justin Henry

I’m not quite sure how I would categorize this movie. A drama? Courtroom drama? For a microsecond I’d say family but it’s about a family, not what would be described as a typical family movie.

The Kramers live together in a flat in New York City with their young son Billy. But Joanna (Streep) becomes too stressed and moves away, throwing her husband Ted (Hoffman) into the role of both the mother and the father. After building a relationship with his son, Joanna then returns and demands custody.

And that’s the story in a nutshell really. It’s heartwarming and shows a lot of depth in the relationship between a father and his child. Without the mother, there’s a piece of them missing, which obviously there would be in any family, but when the mother is the primary caregiver, it is such a hard job for the dad to fill her shoes. Billy and Ted go through ups and downs; at the beginning there are so many downs as both feel the strain of losing the woman they love, with tempers flying and words said that neither of them mean. Poor little Billy has to put up with Ted who tries to adapt, he gets over being almost abandoned by his mum and learns to rely on his dad.

The acting in this movie is superb. Spot on. Both Streep and Hoffman won their oscars, with Justin Henry being nominated (and I think he is still the youngest actor to have ever been nominated for best supporting). They play such convincing parents who are truly battling with what would be best for their son, and Hoffman is beyond brilliant and believable. He really conveys a struggling father who has the sudden realization that actually, he can look after his son and be a working parent, and he knows that is what is best for all. Similarly, Streep’s emotional performance as a mother is most definitely oscar-worthy. She is a dynamic actress, and has got better and better with age, whether she’s singing and dancing in Mamma Mia, or playing one of the most powerful women in history, Margaret Thatcher. Little Justin Henry as Billy is one of the best child actors out there, he cries, screams, laughs and he himself is so believable as a little boy who loves his father and the routine of their life together.

Emotional. Heart wrenching. Outstanding acting all round. Four stars.

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