Ordinary People

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Ordinary People is a 1980 American drama film about the disintegration of an upper-middle class family in Lake Forest, Illinois, following the death of a son in a boating accident.

Directed by Robert Redford. Written by Alvin Sargent, based on the 1976 novel Ordinary People by Judith Guest.
Everything is in its proper place... Except the past.taglines


  • "Well, don't admire people too much. They"ll disappoint you sometimes."


  • You know, I think this can be saved. It's a nice clean break.
    • To her mother about the platter she just broke.


  • Conrad. Let's have a great Christmas. Let's have … a great year. Let's have the best year of our whole lives. We can, you know … this could be the best one ever..

Dr. Berger[edit]

  • A little advice about feelings, kiddo; don't expect it always to tickle.


Cal: He just wants to know that you don't hate him.
Beth: Hate him! How could I hate him? Mothers don't hate their sons! Is that what he told you? You see how you believe everything he tells you? And you can't do the same for me, you can't! GOD I DON'T KNOW WHAT ANYONE WANTS FROM ME ANYMORE!
Ward: Beth, we don't want anything from you; Audrey, Cal, Connie and Me, we just want you to be happy.
Beth: Happy! Ward, you tell me the definition of happy. But first you better make sure you happy!

Conrad: It's impossible after all the shit I've pulled.
Dr. Berger: What shit have you pulled? [pause] Hey, remember, I'm talking proportion here, now what shit? [pause] C'mon, you must be able to come up with at least one example. [pause] And don't give me, "I tried to kill myself." That's old turkey.

Jeannine: Can you ever break the ball?
Conrad: You can't break the ball. Can't break the floor. Can't break anything in a bowling alley. And that's what I like about bowling alleys. Can't even break the record.

Beth: Calvin? Why are you crying? Can I, uh … can I get you something?
Cal: I don't...
Beth: What did you say? Calvin, what did you say? Tell me!
Cal: You are beautiful. And you are unpredictable. But you're so cautious. You're determined, Beth; but you know something? You're not strong. And I don't know if you're really giving. Tell me something. Do you love me? You really love me?
Beth: I feel the way I've always felt about you.
Cal: [pause] We would have been alright, if there hadn't been any mess. But you can't handle mess. You need everything neat and easy. I don't know, maybe you can't love anybody. It was so much Buck. When Buck died, it was as if you buried all your love with him, and I don't understand that, I just don't know, I don't... maybe it wasn't even Buck; maybe it was just you. Maybe, finally, it was the best of you that you buried. But, whatever it was... I don't know who you are. And I don't know what we've been playing at. So I was crying. Because I don't know if I love you anymore. And I don't know what I'm going to do without that.

Conrad: You woulda visited Buck if he was in the hospital.
Beth: Buck would have never been in the hospital!

Conrad: [about Karen's suicide] I feel bad about this! I feel really, really bad about this! Just let me feel bad about this!
Dr. Berger: Okay. I feel bad about it, too.

Conrad: [seeing Beth set the table] Can I help?
Beth: Help with what?
Conrad: With … this?
Beth: No. I'll tell you what you can do is go upstairs to that room of yours and clean out the closet.
Conrad: [still desperately trying to talk with her] Mom?
Beth: [sensing this, but afraid] Okay? Because it really is a mess. [they stare at each other in silence for a moment before the phone rings]

Dr. Berger: Now. You can live with that. Can't you?
Conrad: I'm so scared! I'm scared.
Dr. Berger: Feelings are scary. And sometimes they're painful. And if you can't feel pain, then you're not going to feel anything else, either. You know what I'm saying?
Conrad: I think so.
Dr. Berger: You're here, and you're alive. And don't tell me you don't feel that.
Conrad: It doesn't feel good.
Dr. Berger: It is good. Believe me.
Conrad: How do you know?
Dr. Berger: Because I'm your friend.

Dr. Berger: So you felt great. You brought home a Christmas tree and everything was hunky dory. Okay?
Conrad: You're the doctor.
Dr. Berger: Listen, don't take refuge in one-liners like "you're the doctor". Okay? Because that pisses me off.
Conrad: Okay.

Conrad: [Dr. Berger is pretending to be Buck, Con's older brother] Bucky, I didn't mean it! Bucky, I didn't meant it!
Dr. Berger: What?
Conrad: I said put the sail down, but you said keep it starboard, and then we go over! And you say "Hang on, Hang on!", but then you let go! Why'd you let go?
Dr. Berger: Because I was tired!
Conrad: Oh yeah? Well screw you, you jerk!
Dr. Berger: [abandoning his role] It hurts to be mad at him, doesn't it?
Conrad: God, I loved him. It's not fair. You just do one wrong thing.
Dr. Berger: And what was the one wrong thing you did? [pause] You know. [pause] You know.
Conrad: I hung on. I stayed with the boat.
Dr. Berger: Exactly.

Jeannine: [the suicide attempt scars on Conrad's wrist are displayed] Did it hurt?
Conrad: I don't remember, really.
Jeannine: You don't want to talk about it?
Conrad: I've never really talked about it. To doctors. But, not to anyone else. You're the first who's asked.
Jeannine: Why did you do it?
Conrad: Uh … I don't know. It was like … falling into a hole. It keeps getting bigger and bigger and you can't escape. All of a sudden, it's inside … and you're the hole. You're trapped. And it's all over. Something like that. It's not really scary … except when you think back on it. 'Cause you know what you were feeling …

Cal: What I'm … gonna say … will sound strange.
Beth: What happened? Come inside.
Cal: Could we talk about Buck's funeral?
Beth: Whaaaat?
Cal: It'll seem trivial. But, it's on my mind and I'd like to talk about it. When I was getting dressed for Buck's funeral …
Beth: Calvin, what's the matter with you?
Cal: Just let me get it off my chest,OK?
Beth: What could getting dressed for Buck's funeral … have to do with anything, right now?
Cal: I was wearing a blue shirt. You said, "wear a white shirt and the other shoes." It was nothing at the time, but, it seemed to stay with me. And I, for some reason, had been thinking about it and it suddenly occurred to me, what difference did it make what I wore to Buck's funeral?
Beth: Uh, huh.
Cal: Just hear me out, Beth, it won't hurt you to listen!
Beth: I won't listen to that. No one in their right mind would listen to that!
Cal: I just want to talk about something I always remembered.
Beth: Why do you want to remind me?
Cal: Because I've always wondered, in some needling way, what it mattered what I wore. I was crazy that day. We were going to our son's funeral and you were worried about what I wore on my feet. I'm sure it sounds like nothing to you, but it stuck with me and I just wanted … to tell you about it.


  • Everything is in its proper place... Except the past.
  • Some films you watch, others you feel.


External links[edit]

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