Movie Review Essay
The 1980 film Ordinary People involves issues of crises and intervention and also dramatically portrays a clinical approach in practice to dealing with adolescent psychological crisis. As Klein and Lindermann defined crises a “the acute and often prolonged disturbance that may occur in an individual or social orbit as a result of an emotional hazard” (p. 284) and specifically those faced by “losses in significant relationships associated with the death of a parent; parental divorce and remarriage; death of a sibling or the loss of a parent to illness.” (Sandoval, 2002, p. 6) In the film Ordinary People , the story’s central character Conrad Jarrett is a seventeen year old suburban teenager who has recently survived a suicide attempt following the fatal drowning of his older brother, Buck.
The ensuing trauma that consumes Conrad and his family in the wake of Buck’s death comprises a host of issues. Conrad specifically deals with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, not to mention his consuming guilt for being a witness to his brother’s death, but a survivor of the boating accident that took his life. The film deals openly with these issues, but more importantly, it deals with them not only from a familial and interpersonal perspective, but includes portrayals of Conrad’s counseling sessions with his psychiatrist, Dr. Berger, and also portrayals of the counseling strategies used to help intervene in Conrad’s personal crisis.
Among specified counseling treatments for crisis intervention is the idea of alacrity; that is, the intervention should take place with speed and be targeted at producing immediate results. As in the case presented fictionally in ordinary People, the character, Conrad, is friends with a fellow patient from his former mental hospital who, two-thirds of the way through the film, suicides due to the fact that she did not seek outpatient treatment. Her death in the film stands as corroboration of the theoretical notion that “Facts must be gathered to clarify the situation so that action may be taken quickly and appropriately. Much of this information may need to be determined from persons other than the child.The first principle in psychiatric crises is to intervene quickly so as to reduce danger. (Sandoval, 2002, p. 12)
Another key component in crisis intervention s to set a realistic tone and get the person in crises to view the situation for what it is. In Ordinary People, Dr. berger must coax Conrad into understanding the source of his various emotions: his guilt, his fear, his anger, and his depression. But before he can do this, he must persuade Conrad to reinvest his vision with a realistic tone. He must convince him to see a reality that may be divested of his particular emotional reactions. This is only part of the overall therapeutic process, but it is important to: “Confront reality and respond to the requirements of the external situation.” (Sandoval, 2002, p. 12)
In the context of the film, crises means Conrad’s liklihood of attempting suicide again and possibly succeeding. In order to be drawn out of his emotional crises so that he will be able to rationally confront the underlying realities which give rise to the emotional turbulence, it is important for Berger to help Conrad re-enter “normal” life; another theoretical touchstone of crises intervention. It is important for the victim to “sustain relationships with family members and friends” and this latter observation form s a central core of the character development and psychological therapy portrayed in the movie. (Sandoval, 2002, p. 13)
In fact, Conrad’s progress at differentiating his emotional states from the reality underlying them is directly ties to his branching out, socially, and creating new relationships (including a girl friend) and embracing evolution in the relationship he has with his mother, father, grandparents, and long-known fiends. His private crises has very public consequences, impacting his social life, his standing among his friends and schoolmates and his own self-image. Conrad’s persistent feelings of alienation and depression lead to a violent confrontation with one of his school-rivals and Dr. Berger’s analysis leads him to correctly guide Conrad to the source of his volatile emotions. It is clinically important to “Preserve a reasonable emotional balance by managing upsetting feelings aroused by the situation. The powerful emotions stemming from a crisis must be mastered. Through a combination of appropriate expression and the use of strategies to manage or block the full impact of the event,” which is precisely what is portrayed in the movie as Berger guides Conrad to let his emotions have full-expression, but in proper context and when Conrad has been allowed to have steady enough grounding in understanding the rational underlying principles of his emotional states.
Finally, Berger helps Conrad to begin realizing his own unique potentials and capacities, which illustrates another stage in crisis intervention: “a satisfactory self-image and achieve a sense of competence and mastery. The child must search for new roles in which to be competent or to return to old arenas where he or she has been successful in the past in order to achieve a sense of competence.” Berger helps Conrad do this by encouraging him both to quit the swim team and also to seek new relationships, specifically his romantic, sexual relationships, in turn helping Conrad to transition not only from crisis to safety,. but from child to young adult. I think the film is skillful in its portrayal of both the personal and clinical aspects of psychological crises and the modes of treatments which help people cope with tragic events in their lives. (Sandoval, 2002, p. 13)
Sandoval, J. (Ed.). (2002). Handbook of Crisis Counseling, Intervention, and Prevention in the Schools (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Watch a movie of your choosing with readily observable crises and then complete a four (4) page critique of the movie as it relates to crisis theory and intervention. Give particular attention to how you might use the ideas presented in this movie to explore the nature of the crisis presented and elaborate on your suggestions for alleviating the crisis, teaching coping skills, and developing resiliency. This assignment should have a title page (this counts as page 1) which will have your name, the course, the instructor, the assignment # (Movie review #2), and the date. The format for the paper is as follows: Times New Roman script in 12 point font with 1½ line spacing and 1 inch margins around your paper.