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Devastated by the loss of their older son, Calvin (Donald Sutherland) and Beth (Mary Tyler Moore), a well-to-do suburban couple, are trying to rebuild their lives after their younger son, Conrad (Timothy Hutton), attempts suicide. While Beth, who always favored the elder son, retreats into an icy, emotionless shell, Calvin tries to draw Conrad back into the family and into life as a teenager. Conrad sings in the choir and returns to the swim team, but both his brother's death and his own experiences traumatize him. Conrad reluctantly begins therapy sessions with Berger (Judd Hirsch), which allow him some respite from the unbearable grief and guilt he carries with him. As Conrad makes strides, Calvin realizes that he no longer knows his wife and is both saddened and angered by how seemingly emotionless she has become.
A classic portrait of family life in the face of tragedy, Robert Redford's award-winning directorial debut is moving and thought provoking. Based on the novel by Judith Guest, the film features the debuts of Timothy Hutton and Elizabeth McGovern.