Beth and Calvin Jarrett (Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland) have lost their eldest son in a boating accident. Their upper-middle class family living in Illinois has taken a deep hit to their souls. Their son Conrad (Timothy Hutton) has become a basket case. He has attempted suicide and because of the way his mother is handling the loss he is in a severely depressed state.
Conrad is just a teenager and doesn't have the capacity to understand all that is going on around him. His mother is thinking about superficial things and appearances. His father is distraught but is handling it better than most. Conrad is lost and it isn't until he meets Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch) that his life finally takes a turn for the better.
Dr. Berger is able to bring him out of his despair by telling him that he will not be alone and that he is always going to be there to talk. Eventually Conrad tries to start liking girls and going out again. He is infatuated with Jeannine Pratt (Elizabeth McGovern). At first it is very hard for him, but Conrad will finally open up to Jeannine and that helps him also.
This film if taken in context is a good study of family and the catastrophe's that can disrupt normal lives. It shows a mother's detachment as well as a father who thinks all will work out. He is positive but in the end even he has to face facts. Some things just can't be put back together and people have to just move on. This movie will tear you up. I mean it will leave you in tears. It will also show how strength can be found in the oddest places.
Director Robert Redford knew what sort of movie he had and when he got the actors together he had to know that he a miracle of a movie. Redford does wonders with this film. This is a film that if you never have seen it then you must. It is a film that will leave you as an emotional wreck but in the end you will feel reborn.