Adolescent Conrad Jarrett (Hutton) must rebuild his life after he and his older brother experience a horrific boating accident, and only he survives. Ironically, his biggest obstacle lies with his own mother (Moore), who irrationally seems to blame Conrad for the death of her favorite son. Meanwhile, Conrad’s dad (Sutherland) is lost in denial.
This harrowing, penetrating film deservedly won Oscars for first-time director Redford, screenwriter Alvin Sargent, and newcomer Hutton. Casting TV comedienne Moore against type pays off as well: she essays the part of a WASP ice princess with unnerving precision, while Sutherland tackles the thankless role of a father still unable to come to grips with what’s happening around him. Judd Hirsch also registers as the shrink we’d all like to have. An unqualified triumph.