• Movies about suicide are certainly not going to be pleasant from the outset (and I know several people who refused to watch "Surviving" simply because of its theme), but I think viewers will find something special here. Ellen Burstyn plays a doctor's wife and mother of three who clouds her life with activity so that she can't see what's really going on; Marsha Mason is her friend in the neighborhood, a working mom who got fed-up a long time ago and can't muster the strength to care anymore. Their two eldest children (Zach Galligan and Molly Ringwald) are embarrassed by their parents, are convinced they are in love and wish to escape. The opening montage of family photos and the sad, wistful score is highly evocative (and all the shots of Ringwald are fascinating; she manages to convey depth of character even in still photographs). Mason has a more complex role than Burstyn, but Ellen (after coming out of her fog) has several strong scenes, particularly when berating her youngest son (River Phoenix) for taking sleeping pills ("How COULD you...how COULD you, Phillip?"). When Mason breaks down on her front lawn, it's tough not to cry right with her. "Surviving" doesn't tug at your heartstrings for effect (it's not "Love Story"); it earns your tears. The film was notoriously snubbed at Emmy time and got surprisingly low ratings; it's worth rediscovering. ***1/2 from ****