The film is based on the novel Kramer vs. Kramer by Avery Corman, and marked the beginning of Dustin Hoffman’s bright career: he immediately won an Oscar for Best Actor in a film that won a host of awards.
The movie tells the story of a couple in which, after eight years, the wife decides to divorce: the lives of the two and their child are turned upside down and the story unfolds over the next eighteen months, with the events that the protagonists have to face.
Ted Kramer is a professional who works as an account manager in a prestigious advertising company; he is a man who devotes a lot of time to his work and career, which have priority over his family.
For a long time, Ted has been investing time and resources in acquiring the advertising budget of a leading company. One day, he reaches his goal: the big fish has fallen into the net and interesting opportunities are opening up for him, which will require greater energy and time taken away from the family.
But when the man goes home, happy to share the wonderful news, his wife Joanna tells him that she intends to break up with him; she has in the past given up her job and sacrificed all personal aspirations for the family.
Now she wants to make an effort to regain her self-respect and prove that she is a person of value. She decides, not without pain, to temporarily leave her husband in charge of their 7-year-old son Billy.
For Ted the situation is very difficult: he has a demanding job, a child to look after, new stability to build.
How will he cope? What is he going to do when Joanna comes back to get her son?
I won’t go any further with the plot: watch the trailer, then I’ll tell you what I suggest you look out for.
It’s interesting to notice a pattern where the man is deeply engaged in his work and his wife has decided to give up her job to give priority to the family; Ted works, works and then works: everything spins around him and everything is functional to his career.
When Joanna decides to leave him, his entire world collapses: you can see in the film the uncertainties, the mistakes, the attempts to build a relationship with Billy that was previously quite uncertain.
Interesting are the aspects related to the relationship with the boss, who is not interested in Ted’s personal life, whom he considers subservient to the company and functional to pursue his own ambitions: the bond between the two is very close, almost friendly, but the boss will not hesitate to get rid of him when he realises that the priority for him has become Billy’s life.
The search for the new job, without which Ted could not hope to gain custody of his son, helps to understand the attitude of the US labour market towards people who want to find a new job: while in many countries the person willing to accept a job with less responsibility and lower pay is someone who will leave at the first opportunity, in the US the same person represents an opportunity for the company to have a qualified person on board, even if only for a limited period.
The courtroom hearings are very interesting, as the Kramers fight for the child’s custody; the attacks, harsh and ruthless, capitalise on mistakes and weaknesses, highlighting the naked humanity of the protagonists.
The film helps us to reflect on the value of love and invites us to find a balance between personal and professional life, showing the sacrifices that can be made by a person who feels undervalued. The film leaves a glimmer of optimism when it shows that, even when the conflict seems irreparable, people can recover the lucidity that allows them to make balanced decisions.
Not to be missed!
Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Justin Henry, Jane Alexander, Howard Duff, George Coe, JoBeth Williams