An elderly couple finds comfort and joy when their daughter's
boyfriend's son stays with them for a month at their lake house.
On Golden Pond (1981)
Directed by Mark Rydell
Written by Ernest Thompson
Starring Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda,
Doug McKeon, Dabney Coleman, William Lanteau
Based on the stage play by Ernest Thompson
Oscar Wins - Best Actor (Henry Fonda), Best Actress
(Katharine Hepburn), Best Adapted Screenplay
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress
(Jane Fonda), Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score (Dave Grusin)
On Golden Pond is a timeless film for a number of reasons. One, we all get old. It's inevitable. One day, all of us will look back on our lives and wonder if we did any of it right or if we have anything real to show for it. Two, the impeccable chemistry of Hollywood legends Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda, the latter of which died a year after winning his only Oscar for this film. Both of these amazing actors turned in performances of a lifetime, playing a charming old couple nearing the end of their lives and wishing for a better relationship with their daughter Chelsea, played by Henry Fonda's real life daughter Jane Fonda. The end result is a film that brought tears to my eyes because it reminded me so much of my own grandparents, as I'm sure it will to most.
Hepburn and Fonda play Ethel and Norman, a retired couple who are spending the summer at their lake retreat. When their daughter and her boyfriend drop off his son for a month, Ethel and Norman finally get to experience what it'd be like to have a grandchild. The relationship between Billy Ray and Ethel and Norman feels so genuine and warm, as does the love between Ethel and Norman themselves. This is a film built out of pure genuine love and affection, which is nearly impossible to pull off cinematically without seeming dishonest.
There are moments that bring out raw emotion, particularly the final scene between Norman and his estranged daughter, as well as the final scene where Norman nearly has a heart attack. You grow to love these characters because they seem so much like real people. As I said, they reminded me of my own grandparents who are around the same age and who I'm very close to. For a film to elicit such a powerful nostalgic response, it has to be something very special. On Golden Pond is most definitely that something special.