Adapted from Judith Guest’s novel by Alvin Sargent and directed by Robert Redford, a high school senior is recovering from the accidental death of his older brother and his own suicide attempt. He does not get along with his unaffectionate mother, but his father and a psychiatrist help him work through his psychological problems.
High school students sing to the music of Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.”
Conrad Jarrett (Timothy Hutton) wakes up in bed breathing hard and perspiring.
Beth Jarrett (Mary Tyler Moore) and Calvin Jarrett (Donald Sutherland) are attending a local production of a comedy, but he is sleeping and wakes up. Walking away from the theater they talk to another couple about how they liked the play.
Sleepy Calvin is driving, and Beth asks what he was thinking about. He asks when, and she cuddles up to him. He puts the car in the garage, and they go upstairs. He sees a light on in a bedroom and knocks.
Conrad gets his book out while in bed and tells him to come in. His father Calvin asks if he is having trouble feeling, and Conrad says no. Calvin learns that Conrad has not thought about calling that doctor, and he advises him to stick to the plan to call him after a month. Conrad says the plan was he had the choice of whether to call him. Calvin says okay, says he is working on the Michigan State tickets, and closes the door.
Calvin gets in bed and kisses Beth.
At breakfast Calvin is talking with Beth, and Conrad can hear them from his room. She has Calvin call him, and he says he will be right there. Calvin comes in with his jacket on. Beth says French toast is his favorite, and he says he is not hungry. She removes the French toast and throws it in the garbage disposal. Calvin says he has to go because Lazenby is picking him up. Calvin says that is great, and Conrad asks why that is great. Calvin says he misses the old gang. He suggests they play touch football on the lawn, and Conrad leaves.
Conrad walks out to the street, and a car with three guys in it stops. Conrad gets in the back seat. They talk about studying, and Joe Lazenby (Fredric Lehne) says he swims and studies. They stop for the train to cross the street and are afraid they will be late. They see Jeannine Pratt (Elizabeth McGovern) walking and talk about her.
In class a teacher asks Conrad his theory on Judd Fawley. He does not seem to know and adopts her suggestion that he felt powerless. Another student Joel says he was a real jerk because he was hung up on what was moral. The teacher says that is too easy.
From a pay phone Conrad calls Dr. Tyrone Berger (Judd Hirsch) who says he is with a patient and asks him to call back at 2:15. Conrad says he will be busy. Berger asks for his number and says he will call him back, but Conrad says he will call back and hangs up.
Conrad is training with the swim team as coach Salan (M. Emmet Walsh) yells at him. Conrad leaves the locker-room.
At dinner Beth asks if the fish is too dry. She asks Conrad if his shirt is ripped and tells him to leave it for her. Beth urges Conrad to start playing golf again by offering to sign him up for round robin.
Conrad is having a dream of a boating accident.
Conrad crosses a street and goes into a big building. He takes the elevator and plans what he will say. He rings the bell at Berger’s office, and Berger lets him in another door. He tells Conrad to sit down. Conrad answers that he has been out of the hospital for a month and a half, but he denies feeling depressed. He admits that people are treating him a little like he is a dangerous character. Berger lights a cigarette and learns he was in the hospital for four months. Conrad says he tried to knock himself off with a razor. Berger asks how is doing at home and at school, and Conrad says everything is okay. Berger asks why he is there. Conrad says he would like to be more in control so that people would stop worrying about him. He says this is his father’s idea. Berger asks if his mother is worried about him too. Conrad notes he is a friend of Dr. Crawford’s, but he frankly says that he does not like this already. Berger appreciates his being straight. Conrad asks what he knows about him, and Berger admits he talked to Crawford about him. Berger learned that he had a brother who died in a boating accident. He asks if he wants to tell him about it. Conrad does not say anything. Berger confirms that he talked about it with Crawford at the hospital, but Conrad says that did not change anything. Conrad repeats that he wants to be in control, and Berger admits that he is not big on control. Berger suggests he come on Tuesdays and Fridays at the same time, and Conrad asks about twice a week. Berger says control is tough. Conrad says he has swimming practice every night, and Berger says that is a problem. Conrad suggests he could skip practice twice a week, but he says he does not like being there at all.
After dinner Conrad is sitting at the table with his father while his mother is putting dishes in the dishwasher. Conrad says he went to see Dr. Berger, and Calvin is pleased. Conrad says if it is too much money, he does not have to go. Calvin tells him not to worry about the money. Conrad says it is $50 an hour twice a week. Calvin says that is okay and that it is necessary. He asks what they talked about. Conrad says not much and admits it will cut into his swim practice.
Coach Salan tells Conrad he comes late and is yawning; he asks if he is getting enough sleep and having fun out there. Conrad is unsure about the fun. Salan asks if he is on any medication, and he says no. Conrad has to remind him that he did ask him if they gave him shock and that they did. Salan says he would never have let them put electricity in his head.
Conrad walks with Lazenby and their two other friends. Jeannine Pratt introduces herself to Conrad.
Beth gives treats to children at the door on Halloween. She tells Calvin that Christmas in London would be great, but he says they should not plan to go away now. She says they talked about that, and she thinks it would be good for him too. He does not want to interrupt his counseling, but she wants to go away. He is afraid he may change his mind. She does not know if he wants to go to London.
Beth parks her car in front of the house and goes upstairs. She knocks on a door and puts a bag in that bedroom. She opens another door and looks at Conrad’s bedroom. She sits on the bed and looks at his awards and photos on a bulletin board. Conrad comes in and scares her. He says he is sorry, and she says she did not know he was there. He says he just got there. He asks about her golf game, and she says it is too cold to play. She comes out and asks about his swimming. He says he is a little off on his timing. He says he got a 74 on a trig quiz, and she says she was awful at trig. She can’t remember if she took it and tells him she bought him two shirts.
In the car at night Beth tells Calvin who will be there, and he suggests they go to the movies instead. She tells him not to be negative. She agrees, but they go to the party anyway. She tells him not to have too many martinis.
A maid opens the door, and the hostess greets Beth and Calvin. People stand around drinking and talking. Some men talk about business. They are celebrating a 74-year-old’s birthday. Beth sings with others by the piano. Calvin sits on stairs and talks with Annie about her son. She says Donald told her he has not talked to Conrad. Calvin tells her he is seeing a doctor in Highland Park twice a week and that cuts into his social life. Beth hears this. Calvin denies he is having problems. Beth comes over and asks if he is falling asleep on Annie.
In the car Beth tells Calvin that he drinks too much and asks why he told Annie that Conrad is seeing a psychiatrist. They discuss it, and he says to many it is a status symbol. She is upset and says it was a violation of their family’s privacy.
Conrad asks Berger if he is supposed to tell him his dreams, but Berger does not put much stock in dreams. Conrad asks what kind of a psychiatrist he is since most of them do. Berger asks what is going on, and Conrad says he feels jumpy. Berger admits he lied because he does believe in dreams; but he wants to know what is bugging him while he is awake. Conrad suggests he may need a tranquilizer. Berger says he does not think he needs one because he appears more like a zombie. Conrad asks about the clock that faces Berger and asks if it is 60 minutes or 55. Conrad complains about the swimming team and the coach, and Berger asks if he thought about quitting. Conrad says it wouldn’t look good. Berger asks him how it feels. Conrad says it is the same as last year. Berger asks if he is the same person as last year. Conrad does not know. Conrad asks the doctor if he is supposed to make him feel better, but Berger says not necessarily. Berger asks if it is easier with his friends, and Conrad says it is still hard. Berger asks if anyplace is easier, and Conrad says the hospital was because nobody hid anything there. Berger asks if there was anyone there he could talk to besides Dr. Crawford, and Conrad says there was.
Conrad is waiting at a restaurant, and Karen Aldrich (Dinah Manoff) surprises him. They sit in a booth, and she removes her coat. They look at each other and laugh. He says he got back at the end of August. She says she is busy because she is in a play and is secretary now. She says he sounded funny on the phone. He says everything is great and that he is back on the swim team. He says he will be on the bench. They order two cokes. He says she looks really beautiful. He asks if she misses the hospital, and she says no. He asks if she misses Leo’s corny jokes, and she asks if he is seeing a doctor. He says he is. She says she went to a doctor for a while, but it did not work for her. She already knew about the things and decided the only one who can help her is herself. Her dad told her that, but she says it may be right for him. He is not sure how long he will continue because he got shoved into it. She likes that his hair grew in, and he admits he did a dumb thing. He says he misses the hospital, but she says things have to change. He says that is where they had the laughs. She says that was a hospital, but this is the real world. She says she has to go to the drama club, and he says she told him. He thanks her for seeing him. She suggests they have a great Christmas and a great year. She says it can be the best year of their lives. She asks if he will call her and says he looks good. She walks away and stops and tells him to cheer up before she leaves.
Beth sees Conrad lying on a lounge chair in the yard and goes out and says it is cold out here. She asks what he is doing. He says he is thinking. She says his hair is growing out and looking better. He says he was thinking about the pigeon in the garage. She remembers being scared by it. He says that is closest they ever came to having a pet. He asks if she remembers when Buck tried to persuade them to get a dog, even a small one. She stands up and says the dog next door is not friendly. While she talks about that dog, he talks about a retriever that was for sale. Suddenly he barks like a dog, and she stops talking. She tells him to put his jacket on if he is going to stay out here, and she goes in.
Conrad comes in the house and sees Beth setting the table. He offers to help. She says no, but he could clean out his closet. She says it is a mess. She answers the phone and says she could not get there because of her work. She laughs.
Conrad remembers her laughing when Buck (Scott Doebler) was telling her a story that he liked too.
Conrad tells Berger that he does not connect with his mother, but he doesn’t know why not. Berger asks what he is thinking. Conrad says he jacks off a lot, and Berger asks if it helps. He replies it does for a minute. Conrad mentions John boy on the Waltons. Conrad tells how his father came into his room soon after Buck died, and he felt that his father was so uptight. He did not know what to feel. He did not feel sad. He was thinking that John boy would have said something about how he felt. Berger asks what, but Conrad says he does not know. Berger tells him not to hold back.
Calvin is walking with a colleague from work about how he is not able to tell anyone they are not making it. His boss says that is not the problem and asks where he is because he has been losing him. His boss says he has known him for twenty years and can tell when something is wrong. He asks about Connie, and Calvin says he is all right. His boss says he thinks he worries too much about him. He says he has to let him go sometime. Calvin says he is not on the rack about him. The boss says he will be gone away to college in about a year, or he may take a tour of Europe for a year. He says his Valerie is not only away from home, but she has her own friends and her own life. He says she breezes in for a few days on vacations. He says girls may be different, or maybe she knew too well what was happening with Nance and him. He says they leave, and all that worrying does not amount to a hill of crap; it is just wasted energy.
On the train Calvin remembers his two sons coming down the stairs and quarreling. He intervenes and gets them to agree to give back what they took from the other. He also remembers pounding on the bedroom door while shouting to Conrad. Beth is upset, and an ambulance takes him.
Conrad is swimming after four others have got out of the pool. He sees the coach in his office. Later in that office Salan asks what else he wants from him. He excuses him from practice so that he can see his shrink. He works with him every night at his convenience. He asks what more he wants, and Conrad says nothing. The coach says he has everything going for him, and he asks why he wants to mess up his life. Conrad does not think quitting swimming will mess up his life. The coach says okay and warns him that this is it; he will not take him back again. Conrad gets up and goes out.
At his locker Lazenby asks Conrad why he quit, and he says he felt it was a bore. He refuses to say any more and interrupts Lazenby who gets angry and leaves him. Conrad hears him telling the other guys that he told them he was a flake.
Berger asks Conrad what his dad said about it, and he says he has not told him yet. Berger asks why not, and he says because he sweats everything so much. He worries too much. Berger asks if he told his mother. Conrad says he does not connect with his mother and with irritation mentions that he told him that. He says he does not have things in common with her but surface junk. She wants him to clean his room, get good grades, brush his teeth, and so on. Conrad says he does not want to talk anymore and tries to see the time. Berger rolls his chair closer to him and says he thinks there may be a connection between his desire for control and his lack of feelings. Conrad says he feels things, and Berger asks when. Conrad says he does not know, and Berger tells him to stop playing around. He wants him to leave that answer in the waiting room with the magazines. Conrad asks if he does not have an answer, he should make one up. Berger says that would be good and tells him to say why he has no feelings. Conrad says he said he does have feelings. Berger says now he has them; now he doesn’t. Conrad objects to his hassling him and asks if he is trying to make him mad. Berger asks if he is mad, and Conrad shouts no. Berger tells him to cut the shit because he is mad. Berger says he does not like being pushed and asks him to do something about it. Conrad asks what, and Berger suggests he tell him to fuck off. Conrad starts to say that but stops, gets up, and says he can’t do this. Berger asks why not. Conrad says it takes too much energy to get mad. Berger asks him how much energy it takes to hold it back. Conrad says that when he lets himself feel, he only feels lousy. Berger sings “I never promised you a rose garden,” and Conrad says, “Fuck you!” twice. He asks Berger if he jerks off. Berger asks what Conrad thinks. Conrad says he thinks he is married to a fat lady and goes home and fucks her. Berger says it sounds good to him. Conrad feels tired and lies down. Berger advises him that feelings don’t always tickle.
Beth, grandfather, Conrad, and Calvin pose as grandmother takes a photograph. They take a picture of Conrad between his parents and of Calvin kissing Beth. Calvin tries to take one of Beth and Conrad, but she is impatient and wants to take one of the men. Conrad turns his back and after hearing the arguing, he shouts to his father to give her the damn camera. He sits down, and no one says much for a while. Beth takes a picture of Calvin.
Grandmother hears something break and finds Beth in the kitchen. Beth says she thinks it can be saved and admits that it was dumb. She does not think he is happy in school, and grandmother asks if she talked to his teachers. Beth says people do not want to be with them because he provokes them. Grandmother says it is an awkward age and suggests he may need a change. Beth thinks he should go away to school because she does not know how to deal with him anymore. Grandmother asks who would make that decision, and Beth says his doctor might. Grandmother asks her if a doctor would make that sort of decision for her. Beth says he is a psychiatrist, and grandmother asks if he is Jewish. Beth does not know but thinks he is probably German. Grandmother asks what Cal says. Beth says she does not know and shows her the broken plate she hopes she can save.
Conrad sings in the chorus. In the hall Jeannine tells him that he sings very well. He asks how she can hear him while she is singing. She says sometimes she just listens. They walk and talk about the music they like. She wonders why she asks dumb questions and admits she is showing off. She says it is hard talking to someone the first time, and he says she makes it look easy. She sees her bus and runs to catch it, saying he is a terrific tenor. He sings his reply. He sings “hallelujah” as he walks home and enters the house.
Conrad dials the phone and asks for Karen. He leaves a message that he is feeling great and would like to talk with her. He looks in the phone book and gets Pratt’s number. He practices what he will say and lies on his bed with the phone. He thinks Conrad is a dumb name. He dials and says it is Conrad Jarrett. Jeannine says hi. He asks if she would like to go out with him, and she asks if he means a date. She tells him to start over and says she would love to.
Calvin and Conrad bring a Christmas tree home on the top of the car. Inside Beth comes in, and they ask what she thinks of the tree. She says it is nice, and Calvin asks what is wrong. She tells him to ask Conrad what is wrong. She wonders why she has to hear it from Carol Lazenby. Calvin asks what, and Conrad tells him that he quit the swimming team. Beth says it happened more than a month ago. Calvin asks where he has been every night, and Calvin says around, mostly at the library. Calvin asks why he did not tell them, and Conrad says he did not think it mattered. Calvin says it matters, but Beth says it was meant for her. She asks Conrad if it is important for him to hurt her, and he asks if she has that backwards. She asks if she embarrassed him in front of a friend. She complains that they pitied her because she had no idea what her son was doing. She says he lied, but he denies that. She says he lied every night he came home at 6:30. She says it is starting all over again, and she won’t stand for it. Conrad tells her not to and to go to Europe. Calvin tells him to stop. Conrad says the only reason she cares is because someone else knew about it first. Calvin tells Conrad to stop it, and he tells her his father to tell her to stop. He complains that he never tells her anything. He knows she did not come to the hospital because she was busy in Spain and Portugal. He asks why she should care if he was hung by the balls out there. She says they may talk that way at the hospital, but they are not at the hospital now. Conrad says she never came to the hospital, and he asks how she would know. Calvin says she had the flu and could not come. Conrad says she would have come to see Buck if he was in the hospital. She says Buck never would have been in the hospital. Calvin says that is enough, and Conrad goes upstairs. She says she can’t do this anymore. Calvin says someone had better go up there. She says that is the pattern: he walks over them, and then they apologize to him. Calvin heads to the stairs and says he will not apologize. She says he will because he always does. She says he has been apologizing to him ever since he got home from the hospital; but he does not see it. He comes back and says he is not apologizing; he is “trying to God-damn understand him.” She tells him not to talk to her that way. He calms down and asks her quietly that there be no fighting please. He suggests they go upstairs and goes himself, but she remains.
Calvin comes into Conrad’s room and says he needs to talk to him. Conrad is face down on the bed and says he needs to sleep. Calvin says in a minute. Conrad asks him not to be mad. Calvin says he is not mad, but he wants to figure out what happened down there. Conrad says he does not know. He is sorry for what he said, and he asks him to please tell her. Conrad rolls over on his back but has his arm over his eyes. Calvin suggests Conrad tell her, but he says he can’t talk to her. Calvin asks why not, and Conrad says it does not change anything. Calvin says she was upset and hurt because he quit the swim team. Conrad says he does not mean just today, and Calvin asks him to explain. Conrad says his father does not see things. Calvin asks what things. Conrad says she hates him and asks if he can’t see that. Calvin says his mother does not hate him, and Conrad gives in and agrees and asks him to leave him alone. Calvin stands up to leave and asks if Dr. Berger is helping him. Conrad tells him not to blame it on Berger because it is not his fault. Calvin says he will be downstairs if he needs him, and he goes out.
Dr. Berger is trying to learn what happened and goes over it. Conrad admits that she has her reasons for getting upset at him. He says it is impossible after all the shit he pulled. Berger asks what, but he does not want to hear that he tried to kill himself. He wants to know about lately. Conrad says he is never going to be forgiven for that. He says they had to throw away the towels and rug because they could not get the blood out. The bathroom had to be redone, and she fired the maid for not dusting the living-room right. He says if she thinks he is going to forgive her and then corrects himself and says that she is not going to forgive him. They look at each other, and Berger asks what. Conrad stands up and looks out the window. He says he just figured something out. He wonders who can’t forgive who, and Berger says it is a real problem with a real solution. Conrad says he heard this before, and he is so tired. Berger says that is a hell of a secret he is forgiving on himself. Conrad asks what he is to do now. Berger suggests he could recognize her limitations. Conrad asks if he means that she can’t love him; but Berger says it is that she can’t love him enough. He advises him not to blame her for not loving him more than she can. Conrad says she loves his father, and he knows she loved his brother. Conrad says it is him, and Berger says they are back to the rotten kid routine. She can’t love him because he is unlovable. He asks where that leaves his dad. He asks if he knows that he is a rotten kid. Conrad says it is different because he feels responsible; besides he loves everyone. Berger says he understands that he has no taste; he loves him, but he is wrong. He suggests that maybe his mother can’t express it the way he would like. She may be afraid to show him what she feels. He says he has to forgive someone besides his mother. Conrad asks if it is for trying to kill himself. He asks him to tell him what for. Berger advises him to let himself off the hook. Conrad asks what he did, and Berger says they will talk about it on Thursday. He says time is up, and he knows the rules. Conrad asks if he can have a few minutes. Berger tells him to think about it.
Calvin is jogging with a friend who tells him about his buying and selling of stocks. He says he is going to peel off, and he runs on a different path. Calvin runs and remembers what he said and the earlier conversations with Beth and Conrad. Calvin trips and falls on the ground.
Calvin tells Dr. Berger that he wants to be clear and honest. He admits he is not a great believer in psychiatry. He knows that what happens here is only between him and Conrad, and he likes that and respects it. He can see that Conrad is better and is not trying to put him down. He just does not believe it is a panacea for everyone. Berger says he agrees with that. Calvin laughs and wishes he knew why he is here. Berger says he said he could shed some light on some things. Calvin says he knew something was wrong with Conrad even before he tried to kill himself. He says he is smart and has been an A student, and he thought he had the intelligence to work out his own problems. Berger asks if he still feels responsible. Calvin says it is hard not to. He says it was just luck that he happened to be there when he tried it. He could have been at a meeting, or they both could have been away. Berger asks if he thinks of himself as a lucky man. Calvin says no, but he used to think he was lucky before the accident. He asks if the whole of life is nothing but an accident. Berger says that sounds more like a drifter’s idea than a tax attorney’s. Calvin wonders if he is drifting a little. He can see the two of them drifting away from him, and he just stands there watching. Berger asks what he would want to do about that. Calvin says he would like to do something; but he feels like he is sitting on the fence, and he does not like it. Berger clarifies that he sees the other two on opposite sides of the fence. Calvin replies yes, then no, and then that he does not know. He sees her not being able to forgive him. Berger sits back and asks for what. Calvin does not know but says for being too much like her. People always thought that she and Buck were alike; but he believes she is really like Conrad. They were the only two who did not cry at the funeral. He says it is not easy for him to admit that she does not show him much affection. He says he is not trying to put her down at all because she is a wonderful woman. Berger asks if she gave much affection to Buck. Calvin says yes; she loved Buck. He believes she felt a special for love for him as her first-born. Berger asks about Calvin, and he says he loved Buck. Then he realizes he is asking does she love him. He starts to say something about her and then says there is no problem between them; they have been married for 21 years. He says everyone loves Beth, but for Conrad it has been difficult. He asks if he talked about that. He says they don’t know what happens here; they don’t talk about it. He says it is private here, and Berger agrees. Calvin realizes that he came here to talk about himself. Berger suggests they do that.
Calvin is sitting in the car, and Beth opens the door from the house and says hi. He gets out slowly, and she asks what is the matter. He says that what he is going to say will sound strange. She asks what happened and tells him to come inside. He asks if they can talk about Buck’s funeral. He says it may seem trivial; but it has been on his mind, and he would like to talk about it. He says when he was getting dressed for Buck’s funeral, he—. She interrupts and asks what is the matter with him. He asks her to let him get it off his chest. She asks what his dressing for Buck’s funeral could have to do with anything right now. He says he was wearing a blue shirt, and she told him to wear a white shirt and the other shoes. He says it was nothing at the time, but it always seemed to stay with him. For some reason he has been thinking about it, and suddenly it occurred to him to ask what difference did it make. She starts to go back inside the house, and he tells her to listen to him. She says she won’t because no one in their right mind would listen to that. He wants to talk about something that he always remembers. She asks why he wants to remind her of that. He says it is because he always wondered why it mattered what he wore. He says he was crazy that day. They were going to his son’s funeral, and she was worried about what he wore on his feet. He says it may mean nothing to her; but it sticks with him, and he wanted to tell her about it. She walks over to him and hugs him, saying it is all right.
While Christmas shopping Carol going down an escalator says hello to Beth on the one going up. Beth says this gets crazier every year. Beth is lost in thought, and a saleslady asks if she wants to see the dress in front of her in her size. Beth comes back in her mind and says no.
At a restaurant Beth is writing on the Christmas list of presents they are giving as she discusses it with Calvin. She says Conrad should get something for his doctor, and Calvin says he thinks they should go see him. She laughs and asks what. Calvin says that Berger thinks it is a good idea. She asks what he knows about this family and about her; she has never met him. He says that is the point and asks if it would not be easier if they all talked about it in the open. She asks what are they going to talk about. She tells him not to try to change her. She does not want any more changes in her life. She asks if enough has happened. She wants to hold on to what they have, and he says that is what this is for. He says she may get a surprise, but she does not want any surprises. She admits she is not perfect and that she cannot go around hugging everybody all the time the way he does. He says he is not asking her to be perfect. She does not want to see any doctors or counselors. She is herself, and this is her family. She believes they can solve all those problems in the privacy of their own home, not by running to a specialist every time something goes wrong. The waitress asks for their order. He asks for a couple of minutes. The waitress walks away. Beth says she knows that he means well, and she wants it to be a nice Christmas. He wants all their Christmases to be nice. She says he and she need time together. They have to get away, and she suggests that they spend some time in Houston with her brother playing golf. She talked to her mother about it and says Conrad can stay with them. She tells him not to worry about it, and for his sake do not indulge Conrad. He agrees on spending time together. She says she loves him, and they shake hands across the table. He says he loves her too, and she suggests they give things time.
Jeannine and Conrad come out of her house, and she tells him she is a horrible bowler. He says they do not have to go bowling. She says she is a very funny bowler. He promises she won’t look funny and guarantees it. They get in his car.
Jeannine releases the ball too soon, and it goes right into the gutter. Later they are eating hamburgers, and she asks if you can break the ball. He says no, and that is why he likes bowling. They smile at each other for a while, and he says anyway. She asks what, and he says it is a conversation starter. She says that is catchy, and he says he has been working on it all day. She asks if he thinks people are punished for the things they do. He asks if she means by God. She says yes, and he says he does not believe in God. She asks if he does not believe at all. He says it is not a matter of degree; you do, or you don’t. She believes in God. He asks if she is afraid that she will punished for something she did. She admits she has done many things she is ashamed of, and he says he has too. She looks at the scar on his wrist and asks if it hurt. He says he does not remember. She asks if he does not want to talk about it. He says he never has talked about it and does not know. He says she is the first person who has asked. She asks why he did it. He says it was like falling into a hole that keeps getting bigger, and you can’t get out. Then all of a sudden it is inside, and you are the hole. You are trapped, and it is all over. He says it was not scary, but it is when you think back on it. Some of their friends come in singing loudly and interrupt them by pulling her up and put a hat on her head. She is laughing as they go back out.
In the car Jeannine says those guys were energetic, and Conrad says they were pretty funny. She says she is sorry, and he asks what for. She says anyway. He stops in front of her house, and she asks if he wants to talk. He asks about what. She asks if he is okay, and he says he is and will give her a call. She says she wants him to. She says she will see him in choir and gets out. He says goodnight and stays in the car.
On an airplane Beth and Calvin are listening with earplugs and laugh. The plane lands in Houston.
At the golf course Beth and Calvin talk at a table with her brother Ward and his wife Audrey.
Conrad sits in the stands and watches a swim meet. He stays after others have left. Later the swimmers are dressed and leaving and complain about Conrad. Lazenby tells them to shut up and asks Conrad behind him if he wants a ride. He says no, and Lazenby says they could have used him today. Conrad says he does not think so. Stillman (Adam Baldwin) says Conrad has eyes for Pratt and asks if he is in her pants yet. Conrad asks him to try not to be such a prick. Stillman says he is the prick. He says guys like him walk around like they are great and give him a pain in the ass. Conrad slugs him, knocking him down. He jumps on him and keeps hitting him. After a while two others pull him away while two guys restrain Stillman too. Lazenby tells Conrad to calm down, and Stillman calls him crazy. Conrad walks away alone and gets in his car. Lazenby opens the door, gets in, and asks if he wants to talk. Lazenby says that guy has zero brains. He used to know that about him since fourth grade. He shouldn’t let him get to him like that. Conrad asks if he looks stupid. Lazenby asks what is it with him. He does not know why he wants to be in this alone. He says he misses Buck too because the three of them were best friends. Conrad says he can’t help it because it hurts too much. He says he has to go, and Lazenby gets out of the car.
Conrad goes into his room, and his grandmother looks out of hers. Conrad goes down to the kitchen and gets some milk out. He calls and asks for Karen. A man says Karen is dead; she killed herself. He hangs up, and Conrad hangs up. He is angry and goes into the bathroom and turns on the water.
He remembers being on the little sailboat with Buck in the storm. The mast breaks.
Conrad splashes water on his face and runs downstairs and outside while remembering the accident. Buck goes under water.
Conrad runs in the town to a payphone and calls Berger, saying he needs to see him. Berger tells him to get to the office, and he will meet him there.
Berger unlocks the door, and they go inside. They sit down. Conrad cries and says he needs something. He says it keeps coming, and he can’t make it stop. Berger tells him not to try. Conrad says he has to get off the hook for what he did to him. He says it has to be somebody’s fault. Berger asks what he did. Conrad says there has to be some point. He tells Bucky that he did not mean it. Berger says it was not his fault. Conrad says Bucky told him to get the sail down, but he couldn’t. He says then the halyard jammed, and Bucky was sitting there screwing around until it was too late to do anything. He was supposed to take care of it, and Berger says that wasn’t fair. Conrad says then Bucky told him to hang on, but Bucky let go. He asks him why he let go. Berger says it was because he got tired. Conrad says to screw him. He cries. Berger says it hurts to be mad at him, and Conrad says yes. He says he wasn’t careful and did not see how a bad thing might happen. Berger says that bad things happen even when people are careful. Conrad says they should have come in when it started to look bad. Berger says he made a mistake. Conrad asks why he let go. Berger says maybe Conrad was stronger. He asks how long he is going to punish himself. Conrad says he would like to quit. Berger asks why he does not do that. Conrad says it is not that easy. He does not know what to do. Berger says he knows, and he asks what happened. Conrad says Karen killed herself, and he just found out tonight. He says she was fine, but Berger says she wasn’t. Conrad says she told him that she was busy and was feeling good. Berger asks and what. Conrad wishes he could have done something. Berger says he saw her once, and now he wants to take her on too. Conrad says no. He feels bad about this, and he asks him to let him feel bad about this. Berger says he feels bad about it too. Conrad asks why things have to happen to him; it is not fair. Berger agrees it is not fair. Conrad says he does one wrong thing. Berger asks what was the one wrong thing he did. He says he knows. Conrad says he hung on and stayed with the boat. Berger asks if he can live with that. Conrad says he is scared. Berger says feelings can be scary and painful. If he does not feel pain, he will not feel anything else. He is here and alive, and he has to feel that. Conrad says that does not feel good; but Berger says it is good. Conrad asks how he knows, and Berger says it is because he is his friend. Conrad says he does not know what he would have done if he had not been there. He asks if he is really his friend, and Berger says he can count on it. Conrad hugs him and sobs.
Jeannine looks out her window and sees Conrad walking back and forth. She comes outside. He says he was going to call, but he did not want to wake anybody. He says about the other night that he liked being with her, but he did not like himself. She says she was stupid and should not have laughed. She did not know what to do and was embarrassed. She says when those boys came in, it was very awkward. When she gets embarrassed, she laughs. He says they were having a good time, and he let them get in the way of what was happening. He says he has been doing a lot of dumb things lately. He did not know whether she was being straight with him. He would like to try it again. He thought it worked out okay except for the bowling. She says yes. He asks if she is going to school, and she says not on Sunday. She asks if he wants some breakfast and leads him into the house.
Beth makes a putt, and she tells Calvin they should play golf more often. Calvin mentions that Connie might like the Pinehurst golf course, and she asks if he does that deliberately or as a reflex. He says she mentioned vacations, and he assumed she meant him too. She says she is surprised he has not felt the need to call him. He says he was going to call him tonight. She suggests a drink to the others before they head back. Calvin tells her to finish what she started. She says there is no point in discussing it. He disagrees. She says Conrad controls him even from 2,000 miles away. He says Conrad is not the problem and says they should talk about what is really bothering them. She says they should talk about what is bothering him because that is what he wants to talk about. He asks what he did to make her so angry at him. She says it is what he thinks she has done; he blames her for the whole thing. He asks if she can see anything except in terms of how it affects her. She says no, and he can’t either nor anyone else; but maybe she is more honest about it. He swears and asks her to be less honest and more generous and start thinking about him for a while. She asks what he expects from her. She can not throw her arms around him every time he passes an exam. She cannot respond when someone says they did this great thing; she can’t love them. He says all Conrad wants is to know that she does not hate him. She recoils and asks how she could hate him. Mothers don’t hate their sons. She asks if that is what he told him. She says he accepts what he says without questions, and he can’t do the same thing for her. He says he is trying to keep this family together. She shouts that she does not know what anyone wants from her anymore. Her brother says they just want her to be happy. She asks his definition of “happy,” but first he has to make sure that his kids are good and safe, that no one has fallen off a horse or been hit by a car or drowned in that swimming pool he is so proud of. Then he can come to her and tell her how to be happy. She walks away, and Calvin follows her.
On the airplane they do not talk, but Calvin remembers dancing with Beth.
At home Beth is looking at the mail, and Calvin is reading a newspaper. Conrad comes in and says he is going to turn in. He says dinner was good. Calvin says it is early and asks if he is tired. Conrad says he is because it was a rough week. Calvin hopes his grandmother wasn’t too tough on him. Conrad says she was fine, and he is glad they are back. He goes to his mother, leans over and tries to hug her while she is sitting. She does not move. He says goodnight and walks away.
At night in bed Beth notices that Calvin is not there. She gets up and puts on her robe. She goes downstairs and finds him sitting with his face in his hands. She asks why he is crying. She asks if she can get him something. He says she is beautiful and unpredictable, but she is so cautious and determined. He says she is not strong, and he does not know if she is really giving. He asks her to tell him if she loves him. Does she really love him? She says she feels the way she has always felt about him. He says they would have been all right if there had not been a mess. He says she cannot handle a mess because she needs everything neat and easy. He does not know and wonders if she can love anybody. When Buck died, it was as if she buried all her love with him. He does not know if it even was Buck. He says maybe they buried the best of her. Whatever it was, he does not know who she is. He does not know what they have been playing at. He was crying because he does not know if he loves her anymore. And he does not know what he is going to do without that. She turns and walks up the stairs and goes back to the bedroom. She gets out a suitcase and is suddenly shaken. She starts to cry.
Conrad in bed hears a door and gets up. He looks out his window and sees a taxi drive off. He goes downstairs and looks around. He finds his father in the backyard, puts on a coat, and goes outside, calling to him. Calvin says the yard looks smaller without leaves. Conrad asks what happened. Calvin says his mother is going away for a while to Houston. Conrad asks why, and Calvin says he does not know. Conrad says it is him, and asks if that is right. Calvin says no. Conrad says it is his fault. Calvin turns and speaks strongly that he is not to do that to himself. He says things happen in this world, and people don’t always have the answers for them. He sits down and wonders why he is yelling at him. Conrad sits down too and says that is right; he should do that more often. Calvin asks if he is sure. Conrad says he should get after him the way he used to for him. Calvin says Buck needed it; but he doesn’t because he was always so hard on himself. Conrad tells him no, but Calvin says it is the truth. He never worried about him, but he just wasn’t listening. Conrad says he does not think he really could have done anything. Calvin says he should have gotten a handle on it somehow. Conrad says he used to think he had a handle for everything and that he knew it all. He knows that wasn’t fair; but he always made them feel that everything was going to be all right. He has thought about that a lot lately, and he admires him for it. Calvin tells him not to admire people too much because he will disappoint him sometimes. Conrad says he is not disappointed, and he says he loves him. Calvin has tears in his eyes, and they hug each other. Calvin says he loves him too.
This realistic drama probes deeply into the psychology of a depressed adolescent who is struggling to find out who he is and how he can relate to others. He was badly traumatized by his brother’s death and his own suicide attempt, and now he is rebuilding his life with the help of therapy. His mother also suffered from the two traumatizing events and has withdrawn into a superficial world that handles practical things without expressing real feelings and affection for others. Because she is selfish she thinks everyone is.