Oscar Review: Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Winning 5 of its 9 nominations – including Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Benton), Best Actor (Dustin Hoffman), Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep), and Best Adapted Screenplay – Kramer vs. Kramer is a moving film that pulls at the heart strings.

Struggling to find herself, Joanna Kramer (Streep) files for divorce from her workaholic husband Ted (Hoffman) leaving their young son Billy (Justin Henry) in his chaotic, inexperienced hands. Through many trials as both Ted and Billy learn to cope with their new situation. Ted learns how to cook and clean and handle all of hurdles that come with single parenthood.

After putting his son before his career, when for so long it had been the other way around, Ted is forced to get work elsewhere and finds himself making less money, though with more flexibility to care for Billy. Just when the pair are beginning to live into a meaningful, fulfilling routine together, Joanna returns to their lives.

Hoping to pick things up with Billy where she left them off, Joanna informs Ted that she wants to take their son to live with her. Thinking that it is better to keep Billy in a consistent home environment where he feels loved rather than sending him away with a mother who left him, Ted fights to retain custody and continue building the relationship he has with his son.
*****
Kramer vs. Kramer is a wonderful film with a great deal of heart and depth. There are moments of humor and pain, passion and anxiety all leading to the overall beauty of this movie.

Justin Henry, who played young Billy, was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and became the youngest actor ever nominated for a competitive Academy Award at the age of 8 years, 276 days.

Overlooked by AFI‘s lists, Kramer vs. Kramer is all in all a fine piece of cinema that deserves every credit that comes its way. Tackling tough subjects like divorce, custody, family vs. career, and what it means to be a parent, this film takes us along with the struggles of every character and forces us to examine our own lives and look to what lengths we would go for our own families.

A great film.

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