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Hoffman's Ted Kramer is a vision of the Graduate grown up: serious, focused and thrown by anything that threatens his upwardly mobile professional trajectory. The news that his wife, who he has failed to notice teetering on the edge of a breakdown, is leaving him and their son sends him into a tailspin. The film is as much about his resilience and fulfilment as it is the story of a divorce and custody battle. Justin Henry is extraordinary as Billy, the boy caught in the middle, and turns in a remarkably complex, thoughtful performance, which is light years from the archetypal all-American kid you might anticipate. And in just a handful of scenes, Streep is mesmerising as Joanna, the deserting wife and mother who you just can't bring yourself to hate. Yes, this is soap opera. But it belongs up there with all the finest cinematic human dramas.
On the DVD: The widescreen presentation ensures a theatrically authentic experience, with some fantastic shots of New York city coming into their own. The mono sound is adequate for the relative intimacy of most of the dialogue. But the real bonus is the retrospective documentary in which director and writer Benton, producer Stanley Jaffe and the cast look back with touching satisfaction at a piece which clearly meant a great deal to them all. Hoffman's initial reluctance (he was going through a real-life divorce) to get involved, the process of working with a gifted child actor and Streep's desire to make Joanna understood are all recalled in fascinating detail. --Piers Ford