The movie Ordinary People describes the tragedy of family in a realistic manner. It portrays what can happen to the family belonging to the upper middle class when they face tragedy unexpectedly, and the entire order is disturbed. The movie has shed light on a family that has become separate individuals residing in a similar house, without any communication with each other because of the tragedy. The movie has realistically considered the guilt that is misplaced at each level. The inability of the family for working together in the form of the system via the tragedies bring them to the path where they realized the breakdown at an individual level, and finally considered family as a forceful and a dynamic system. Calvin, Beth both are living with their son named Conrad after the death of their elder son Buck. Convard is, however, overcome by the grief, and misplaced the guilt to the level of a suicide attempt and sometimes of the hospitalization. Beth has always given preference to Buck but not to Conrad. Calvin is confused as he is attempting that the family members remain together. But, as a matter of fact the pressure is increasing, and he realizes the situation himself. There are six perspectives of the family system that can be better-understood on applied on this movie.
- Psychodynamic perspective,
- Family System Perspective
- Family life cycle perspectives,
- multilevel family practice model, and
- the strengths perspective
The psychodynamic perspective is the indicative of the fact that the interpersonal and the personal problems are the consequence of the unresolved problems that exist in the family where an individual is born and raised (Hutchison, p. 346). In the movie, it is shown that Conrad is suffering from the post traumatic stress order and the survivor guilt that result because he has witnessed the death of his bother, an finally promoting it as the case of suicide. The disease of Conrad is because of the lack of the sympathy, understanding, and the motherly associations, which is unavoidably required in order to maintain a balance in the individual and social life of an individual for achieving an optimistic view and a positive direction in the life. The members do not communicate with each other, and effective solution of the problem is not possible without proper communication. Because of the non-expressive feelings, and the avoidant behavior of the mother, Conrad has developed the rejection and isolation feeling that is followed by the resentment and anger. The movie has shown a dysfunctional nature of an interaction between mother and child, and also shown the destructive results that arise due to the poor relationships paving the way to the emotional pain.
The family system perspective considers the family as a social system, where people are not considered as individuals rather they are the parts of all the patterns of the interactions and roles (Hutchison, p.347). In the movie, Ordinary people, it is illustrated that the humans always experience something, and then learn from this experience, and these experiences are not understood unless people look back on the events. The movie has clearly indicated that people are the part of the connections, interactions, and communication. The movie has shown meaningful relation between the father and son, and indicated that without proper interactions, the family cannot live happily, and that individuals are the important part of the interactions and the roles, as Calvin becomes isolated and depressed due to non-interaction with the parents.
The Family life cycle perspective regards the families as the multi-generational system that is moving through the time, comprise of people having shared values (Hutchison, p. 349). This perspective explains that the relationships in the family, however, experience transition when they proceed in the life cycle, the rules change, and the roles are continuously defined. Similar transition can be observed in ‘Ordinary People’, where two people have formed the meaningful association or relationship. However, the relationship of Calvin and Conrad started in shamble, as Calvin has never stopped to indulge Conrad, and Conrad never appreciated his father. But, in the end, Calvin spit with his wife Beth, and Conrad has, however, healed. So, the family has undergone various transitions in the movie.
The ABC-X model of family stress and coping, focuses on understanding that the event in the family system let suppose A, become the crisis X, having an idea of the resources of family B, and the definition of the family C, associated with the event (Hutchison, p. 351). In this movie, ABC-X model is applicable because death of the elder son of the Jarrett family (which is an event A), has disturbed the younger son (which shows crisis X), due to improper attention given to younger son by mother (which shows family resources B), has resulted in the isolated members not living in the form of family where there is proper communication, and interaction among the members (indicating definition of family, C).
The ABC-X model also describes the family transition process that is following the stressful and worrying event. It shows the recovery of the previous levels of functioning of the family. The movie, Ordinary people revolve around a question that whether Conrad will be able to get better after his suicide attempt? However, this can be seen at the end of the movie where Conrad recovered from the suicide attempt. He understands the values of relationships, and proper interaction with the members of the family, all the members of family begin to understand each other, and they also analyzed the importance of the relations in the family. However, this movie has explained the rebuilding and the healing of the ruined family, and the improvements in the functions of the family.
Further, the Family Resilience perspective emphasizes on the belief system of the family, on the organizational patter, and on strengthening the processes of the family (Hutchison, p. 352). However, strengthening in this case can be observed from the movie that the last scene of the movie is not an indication of the happy ever after, instead it has indicated the strengthening and the beginning of the truthful and the honest relationship between the family members, i.e., between the parents and their teenage child, who just wants proper attention and communication.
However, there are many main themes of the movie Ordinary people. One theme is that the healing after the appalling experience is possible at an individual level, whereas it is difficult at the group level, which can be analyzed from the fact that Conrad has managed himself in a better way, but Beth and Calvin has not managed their married life properly. The major reason is the difficulty in communicating with each other. Calvin and Beth have lost their capability of communicating in an effectual manner as they consider the communication may occur in a different manner. Another important theme of the movie is that an effective communication can provide the effective solution of the problem. For example, in the movie Conrad felt good and recovered after the out bursting with the Doctor, named Doctor Berger, he explained everything that is disturbing him to the doctor. Beth and Calvin have never properly communicated, so their marriage remained unsuccessful and never healed.
In a nutshell, the psychodynamic perspective, family system perspective, family life cycle perspective, ABC-X model of family stress and coping, and family resilience perspective can be effectively applied to the movie Ordinary People, as these perspectives describe about the problems that the family in movie faced, and also described how they come out of the problem. The psychodynamic perspective have effectively described that the issues that the family faced in movie are because of the unresolved problems, the family system perspective has described that family is a social system, and individuals are the part of interactions, the family life cycle perspective has described that families are multi-generational, the ABC-X model has emphasized on understanding the family system that creates crisis, and in this the understanding of the resources of family and the definition of family is essential. Lastly, the family resilient perspectives have described the strengths of the processes of the family, the belief system of the family in relation to the movie. All these perspectives are effectively shown in the movie.
Hutchison, Elizabeth D. Essentials of Human Behavior: Integrating Person, Environment, and the Life Course. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2013. Print.