Dramatic, personal, engaging. This story is doubtful in premise, but delivers surprisingly well, playing on emotional and character development and keeping a consistent pace; it also features Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep at the top of their game, along with a powerful debut from child actor Justin Henry. Recommended? A brilliantly written and produced drama well worth the trip back into the vault.
With a cast like this, it is hard to ignore such a masterpiece. Both Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep took their first Oscars for this as big name actors, and have since become icons in their field. They brought a heartfelt and realistic angle to their characters. Especially noteworthy was 8 year old Justin Henry, after whom every child actor ever since should have modelled themselves. His performance felt truly genuine, from every tear to every laugh. It is a shame that he has not become a major star in recent years, playing minor roles and making guest appearances on TV.
One particularly stylized element was the music (or often, the lack thereof). During a select few empty transition moments, a light composition by Purcell or Vivaldi can be heard in the background, but throughout much of the film, we only hear the sounds of the characters and their surroundings, making the active scenes feel even more real.
This is a movie that deserves exactly the place where it has fallen in film history: a box office success, an Academy Award Best Picture win and a graceful fall into history. There is nothing flashy or particularly standout in this film, but its simplicity and realism speak volumes. This is the kind of movie that could mean a lot to anyone who can relate to it. The truth is that while divorce affects everyone differently, it still affects everyone. The ambiguous and open ending only adds to this, showing that the story does not end when one party wins and the other loses. There are no winners, even in a custody battle, because everyone ends up losing something.