What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this multiple award-winning film about the wrenching truths of divorce and its effects on both parents and kids has moments of great humor as well as heartbreak. Watching the relationship between a clueless dad (as he becomes a dedicated, loving father) and his young son (as he learns to deal with the pain of losing his mother) is suspenseful, very intense, and highly moving. Made in 1979, the filmmakers made a groundbreaking effort to treat a mother, who leaves her young son behind, with dignity and understanding. Following a bedroom scene showing two adults after a sexual encounter, a naked woman comes face to face with a little boy in the hallway (breasts clearly visible as she attempts to cover her genitals); the moment is played for comic effect and embarrassment rather than sexual provocativeness. In one tense, lengthy sequence, a child falls from a jungle gym, is rushed to an emergency hospital, and undergoes stitches on camera. There is occasional swearing ("goddammit"). Adult beverages are consumed in a number of social situations, and, once, the dad uses alcohol after a particularly difficult argument with his son. A few people smoke.
- Families can discuss how expectations of fathers have changed since this movie was made in 1979. How do current movies and television programs show the involvement of dads today? Give some examples.
- Did your feelings about Joanna (the mom) change by the end of the story? What techniques did the filmmakers use, and how did Meryl Streep's performance help you understand her point of view?
- Why was the courtroom sequence meaningful? Was it important for the audience to hear each person's side of the story? Was it important for the characters to hear each other's side of the story?
- Ted, Joanna, and Billy Kramer had few financial issues to face. How might the movie have been different if the family had had money problems?