Film Review: Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Divorce seems to be becoming more and more common in our society, so naturally, any controversy surrounding Kramer vs. Kramer upon its time of release has completely cleared up.  But that hardly dampens the effectiveness.  Since 1979, many films have portrayed these same family troubles while using a different strategy.  One might find that Kramer vs. Kramer works best for quite a few reasons.  A crucial part in the film’s success are the actors.  With such a simple story, the audience has to be convinced that they are watching something worthwhile.  Luckily, this is a film blessed with an abundance of convincing actors and actresses that are each in total control of their roles.  This even includes seven-year-old Justin Henry starring in his first movie.

Henry plays the young son of a dedicated worker and an unhappy wife.  When he wakes one morning to discover that his mother is gone, he is attended to by his father.  For the next fifteen months, the two grow very close.  Then, the mother returns wanting custody of her child.  What ensues is a fight in court between two parents who both love their son deeply.  Both of the fine performances of Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep were rewarded with well-deserved Oscars.  It’s one thing to display the emotions of a parent who might lose his/her only child and it’s another to do it well enough that the audience cannot tell whose side to take.  Without being able to pick sides, the audience is better involved and the entire film appears more realistic.

I’m sure that I am not alone when I say that I hate when a good movie is ruined by a filmmaker’s desperate attempt to make the audience cry.  I did not come close to crying at the end of Kramer vs. Kramer, but I never picked up any signs of this desperation.  So while I cannot honestly name the picture “a tear-jearker”, I can try to clear any doubts as to the ending being disappointing.  As far as Best Picture winners go, this one appears to be very ordinary.  Indeed, the story is not hard to predict, but what this film does, it does well.  It is well-written, well-acted, and well-directed, satisfying those looking for entertainment or something touching.

Rating: 4/5