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Ordinary People

Starring: Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, etc.
Director: Robert Redford
Rated: R
Year of Release: 1980
Video Release Date: January 30, 1996

Teenaged Conrad is plagued with guilt for having survived a boating accident that killed his older brother. Worse yet, his mother is seething with anger over the loss, which she conceals beneath a cold, placid exterior. She struggles to hide the fact that she feels the wrong son lived. Meanwhile, Conrad’s dad loves him and his mother, but is paralyzed by fear and is useless in intervening. Following a suicide attempt, with the help of a psychiatrist, Conrad begins the slow and painful process of healing. But his progress also forces his parents to face the unspoken feelings that divide them.

Viewing Suggestion:

Notice how Conrad is struggling with his survivor guilt after his brother died in their boating accident. He finally overcomes his guilt when he is able to truly feel his grief and despair and to acknowledge that he might have been stronger than his brother.

Ask Yourself:

- Do you believe that you cannot let go of your guilt? (By using the word “guilt” here, I am referring to “feelings of guilt” that are not based on being guilty of a serious misbehavior. You may know the difference rationally, intuitively, or after you have heard at least one well-meaning friend tell you: ”You should not feel guilty about this.”
- Do you think Conrad misperceives himself as being guilty?
- Do you remember a time in your life when you were able to let go of feelings of guilt?
- Imagine how you would feel, if you were free of this guilt now?
- If this was possible and you don’t think Conrad is guilty, do you consider that you might have the capacity to release your guilt now?
- How you would feel, if you were free of guilt?