Like Terms of Endearment, Kramer vs. Kramer is a movie that depends almost completely on its actors. Both of these movie are never able to leave a certain feeling of ‘TV-movie’ behind them and its mostly the performances that carry it to a higher level. In the case of Terms of Endearment, this only succeeded in parts and while the performances were impressive, the overall movie left much to be desired. Kramer vs. Kramer on the other hand actually managed, despite certain obstacles, to leave a much bigger impression – maybe because of a very engaging and captivating plot that might have been presented in a TV-movie, too, but still feels rather timeless and significant.
As mentioned, Kramer vs. Kramer most of all lives from its ensemble. Dustin Hoffman and Justin Henry are the emotional core of the story and to watch their relationship develop during their time alone is almost magical. Meryl Streep, too, shines in her part as a young wife and mother close to a mental breakdown. Jane Alexander should not be forgotten for her wonderful performance as a supportive neighbor and friend.
Scenes like Ted running to the hospital with his son in his arms, Joanna saying goodnight to her son before she leaves him or the whole trial are very memorable and help to keep the flow of the story intact. Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep also thankfully never appear to try to steal the show – instead, they are very natural and almost reserved in their work. It is no surprise that these two were honoured by the Academy since they carry the movie (to different extents). Like Terms of Endearment, Kramer vs. Kramer probably wouldn’t even be remembered today without the performances it contains but Kramer vs. Kramer managed to let these performances become part of its overall quality while the performances in Terms of Endearment overshadowed everything else.
Kramer vs. Kramer is an impressive and memorable movie that manages to be both moving and provoking – and while most of this is owed to the work from the actors, the screenplay and the direction were also able to capture the small, quiet moments of a small, quiet story beautifully.