Ted Kramer's wife leaves him and their young son to fend for themselves,
but her abrupt return could destroy the bond he's established with his son.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Written and Directed by Robert Benton
Starring Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Justin Henry,
Jane Alexander, Howard Duff, George Coe
Based on the novel by Avery Corman
Oscar Wins - Best Picture, Best Actor (Dustin Hoffman),
Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep), Best Director,
Best Adapted Screenplay
Oscar Nominations - Best Supporting Actor (Justin Henry),
Best Supporting Actress (Jane Alexander), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing
Divorce is almost always messy business, especially when there are kids involved. Last year, we got Marriage Story, an amazing film that perfectly displayed the nastiest parts of divorce. But back in 1979, a film used divorce to showcase a mesmerizing family drama that certainly covers the bad stuff, but also highlights the good that can come from the realization that you've fallen out of love with the mother/father of your child. Kramer vs. Kramer is a powerhouse of a movie that's led phenomenally by Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, both of whom took home the gold for their performances. It's raw on a level very few actors can reach, but if anyone could, it's these two titans.
One day, seemingly out of the blue, Joanna Kramer (Streep) announces she's unhappy and is leaving her husband Ted (Hoffman) and their seven-year-old son Billy (Henry) behind. Ted is livid and demands an explanation, as well as an apology, but it soon dawns on him that she isn't coming back. Now, Ted has to balance his increasingly big workload with being a single father. Ted's journey from self-absorbed, barely-there parent to dedicated single father is stunning, and Hoffman makes you believe every moment. Things get really dicey when Joanna comes back, claiming she's ready to step up, and sues Ted for full custody. Naturally, the audience is going to pick a side, and because of that, you are absolutely invested in the outcome.
Kramer vs. Kramer is a film I have often passed over in the past, mainly because I couldn't believe a divorce drama ever beat Apocalypse Now for Best Picture. But now I understand. This film is human nature at its finest, with two timeless artists battling it out in the name of art and compassion. If you aren't moved by that, I hope you get an operation to have your stone heart removed. This film deserved the win, plain and simple.