I happened to be on a satellite network when this movie started. So I'm not sure what all you'll get on the DVD version. I had to come and write about the movie because it really hit home for me in so many ways having two autistic children. I would back off a bit on 5 stars due to the length, 4 hours of broadcast time, though on DVD you won't be sitting through commercials.
This movie revolves around the life of a family over a period of twenty some years. It shows the effect on their lives (parents and two of the 5 siblings) of having a severly autistic family member - a son named Randall. Apparently it is based on a fictional book, but I found the emphasis of the movie focusing on the effects on the family and those familial relationships kept this movie grounded in reality far more than most movies featuring autism, even movies I love like Rainman.
The father (Sam Neill) is a prominant psychologist and during the 50's the belief was that autism was caused by "refrigerator" mothers who somehow had rejected their child. I admit I'm not a big Angelica Huston fan but I couldn't help but sympathize with her playing the mother's struggles and pain. Doing the best she could for her son and often at the expense of the rest of the family (your life revolves around the one with the problems) and causing strife in her marriage and relationships with her other children as they approach adulthood. I found myself empathizing and relating to parts of the reactions and personalities of both the parents.
Lots of little details that were true to life, without overkill for those who don't have to live with this. I'd say it is just a tip of the iceberg hint of the gritty reality. Also, that all the bad can't be seperated from the good, and that is just life for all of us to one degree or other. That we are imperfect people dealing with imperfect situations,even great pain, and yet we go on and miraculously we take the leap into relationships of love and marriage, having children, and we are better for it even if it isn't perfect.
I couldn't sit straight through the movie as I cried so much on so many points I set the VCR and left to watch the last half later. If you want a good movie about the complexities of personal relationships and a more accurate look at the realities of living with someone who is really autistic and not savant or gifted hollywood autistic, then this would be my number one recommendation.