Every summer elderly couple Norman and Ethel Thayer visit their cottage on Golden Pond, a large, beautiful lake. This summer, however, will be different. Their estranged daughter Chelsea is coming to visit, dropping off her soon-to-be stepson, who starts to develop a bond with her father, she always wanted.
For some it might have been just that bit too close to home, with Henry and Jane Fonda playing onscreen father and daughter whose difficult relations matched their own. For some it might be the emphasis on emotional release, a drift toward sentimentality in its tale of family attachments set amongst nesting loons and lovely sunrises. And for others it might be the octogenarian cast giving something of their last hurrah (it was to be Henry Fonda’s final film) and thusly receiving those Oscars. On Golden Pond is a wrongly derided film, seen to embody all the dullness of something oh-so mature.
Actually, it is an extraordinary little piece about parents and marriages, involving the kind of naturalistic acting that resonates with the subtle details of life. That it also contains such a grand Hollywood legacy (two generations of Fonda and Katharine Hepburn) just adds a layer of accessibility to events. Through all its generational differences, the unspoken squabbles between a conservative father and a counterculture daughter who has flown through a marriage and lost her way, there runs this deep, disquieting pain that will finally have to be confronted between the real-life pair.
It is also a film about the ties that bind, a portrayal of the necessity of enduring relationships, Hepburn’s simmering love for her grouch of a hubbie is so quietly sung it is worth watching for its moving refrain alone. Okay, so it does cloy in places, but there is truth in its fractures and its seals, a soft-shimmering landscape of real people.
Definitely soppy in places but also genuinely moving.