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  • 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 ****
  • I first viewed "Surviving" when it aired on the ABC Television Network in the winter of 1985. The network was so confident with the film's final version and the importance of its subject matter (teen suicide) that it aired in a 3-hour time slot, which was rather unusual for an original TV movie not based on a novel.

    "Surviving" (which is a better, simpler title than when it re-aired as "Surviving: A Family in Crisis", when there were 2 families in crisis -- and when it was released on VHS as "Tragedy", which sounds very cheap, exploitive and hopeless and doesn't give an indication of the after-effects of suicide on families and friends) occasionally lingers into soap opera hysterics and contrived plot devices. But the strong ensemble cast gave such fine performances and the well-edited, pivotal sequence when the parents of one of the teens tries to save them, made the movie a heartbreaking experience.

    "Surviving" becomes a stronger drama when the families try to make sense of losing their loved ones. That is what makes "Surviving" a very good (not great) family drama.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Like "Ordinary People," this film deals with the problems faced by a seemingly perfect family when that illusion is shattered. This film, however, adopts a more straightforward, and less lyrical approach. The result is a film which is less powerful, but still memorable.

    Unlike "Ordinary People," this film deals with two families. The Brogans are the seemingly ideal family. Headed by David (Len Cariou), a successful doctor, and Tina (Ellen Burstyn), a stay-at-home mom who teaches piano in her spare time, they have three seemingly happy, healthy children, the eldest of whom, Rick (Zach Galligan), is about to enter his senior year in high school. David is pushing Rick to follow in his footsteps, as well as doing a lot of preaching about honor. For his part, Rick takes all of this good naturedly to start with. Among the Brogans' best friends are Harvey (Paul Sorvino) and Lois (Marsha Mason), who apparently never got last names in this film - at least I don't remember what they were - and they're not listed here, who run a successful T-shirt company. They have one child, a troubled girl named Lonnie (Molly Ringwald), who has just been released from a mental institution after attempting suicide.

    The story is told in two parts. The first part deals with the events that lead Rick and Lonnie to commit suicide - Rick's discovery of his father's hypocrisy, and withdrawal from everyone but Lonnie, who is ill equipped to provide him with the support he needs since she is having trouble readapting to life outside the institution. The second part deals with the aftermath of the double suicide - the attempts of the survivors to cope with the tragedy and their overwhelming grief in the face of it, and the subsequent tragedies that come out of the main one.

    While the writing occasionally veers into the melodramatic, for the most part it is straightforward, letting the events, actions, and reactions speak for themselves.

    The acting occasionally goes over the top from the mothers' characters, but for the most part it is pretty solid. Galligan and Ringwald breathe an authenticity into their characters that helps the viewer understand why they feel that their final choice is their only choice. Watch for a young River Phoenix who gives an emotional performance as the surviving younger brother. Len Cariou gives his usual solid performance as David, and while I'm no fan of Paul Sorvino, he gives a competent rendering of Harvey. Ellen Burstyn does a wonderful job as Tina, who shuts down, only to be brought back to functioning through several painful shocks. And Marsha Mason is wonderful as always as a woman whose only way to cope with the tragedy is to find someone who will talk about it with her when her friends and husband will not.

    This is a thought provoking film, and one that is well worth watching.
  • It's hard to describe much about the film without giving away key scenes, so I'll be brief and concentrate on other aspects. A suicidal teen (Ringwald) returns home after a botched attempt and falls in love with a neighbor boy (Galligan) whom she's known forever. She's having trouble readjusting while he discovers some unsettling things about his family and deals with pressure from his father concerning school. It seems all they have is each other and no one understands them except them, of course. Then after the expected scene of them caught in bed together, they are forbidden to visit again. This sends them reeling even more and leads to a harsh decision. The ads (when it's run on tv) or other plot synopsis might give away what they do, but I'll keep it hush here. Only other thing I can add is that the outcome to their action sends the film into a gripping emotional state for the rest of its duration. One of the most powerful scenes I've ever watched occurs on the front lawn with Mason, Sorvino and the two kids. If it doesn't grab ya and get the tears goin' (yes, it got me) then I don't know what would. The acting is just haunting, particularly Sorvino. Unfortunately after that, the film sags a bit, running out of juicy plot threads (except for one) and limps to its conclusion. Moments that follow divert between heart-wrenching to soap opera-ish and are slightly over acted. The highest mark for the film goes for the cast. A ton of well-known faces are featured, beginning with Galligan ("Gremlins"), everyone knows Molly ("Breakfast Club", "Sixteen Candles"), Burstyn ("The Exorcist"), Mason (most recently Frasier's dad's girlfriend on "Frasier"), Sorvino ("Goodfellas"), Phoenix ("Stand by Me"), O' Roarke (little girl from "Poltergeist"), and even the music is by James Horner ("Titanic"). He supplies a subtle clinking of a couple piano keys that's perfect. The few intolerable things: Galligan a bit hammy at times, plus he runs kinda girlish. And why is O'Roarke's voice dubbed? Even for a kid she had a long resume at that point, why dub her? And again, the ending drags a bit, which isn't helped by its lengthy running time. It's about 2 and half hours long, but was first aired over two nights years ago. The other night on Lifetime, they showed it one 3 hour block, so it could wear on you. That's if you can find out when it's on, it being a tv movie, you never know when it could pop up. But you'll be treated to great storytelling and a nice cast. I've always wondered how they got Ringwald to appear right in the middle of her stardom. The answer could be that Hunt Lowry, who produced some of her John Hughes films, produced here. The best of luck bumping into this on tv somewhere or maybe in the video store. Ranks behind "Firstborn" and "Shoot the Moon" as best family drama.
  • I found this movie while channel surfing the other night and since I'm a huge fan of Molly Ringwald, I decided to watch it. Well I was hooked instantly. It dealt with the very serious issue of teen suicide and how the families of the victims are affected. I found this movie absolutely fascinating and it wasn't over the top at all. Everyone in this film gave outstanding performances especially Molly and Paul Sorvino. By the last half hour of this movie I was crying hysterically and continued to for almost half an hour after it ended. It brought back so many of the feelings I had experienced in my early teens and found it very relateable. I highly reccomend this movie to anyone and can't wait until I can see it again!
  • Being a teenager isn't all sweetness and fun like in High School Musical; no, it's the time in a person's life when suicide is most likely to happen. Truthfully, older people moan a lot but grown-up problems --- except terminal illness --- are a piece of cake compared to being a teenager.

    This telefilm is the best drama I've ever seen on the subject of teen suicide. It's Molly Ringwald's finest performance, absolutely.

    I used to have this on VHS, but it got taped over. Too bad. I have no idea how you can see this great movie, but if you can find it do not miss the chance.
  • Everyone in this film gives awesome performances. Ellen Burstyn, Len Cariou, Paul Sorvino and Marsha Mason are all great as the parents who have to face the ultimate tragedy. People have often said Molly Ringwald is a terrible actress, but she gives a fine performance here and it really touched my heart. It made me so angry that these two stupid kids could have been so selfish. Every week in the United States over one thousand kids take their own lives. This is a long film but you are riveted every minute. There is one tragic footnote I wanted to add, the two young actors that played the siblings of the boy in the film who killed himself both met tragic ends in real life. Heather O'Rourke died in 1988 when she was only twelve of stomach cancer and River Phoenix died in 1993 of a drug overdose.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Familiar with the play about the star-crossed lovers? Know enough about the best selling novel-turned Netflix series? Well combine them and you get this 1985 tv masterpiece. There is no better or accurate way of me explaining what this TV movie is like.

    Maybe it's just my opinion, but it seems that there's a rise in mental health issues. And suicide is the number one thing associated with it. For something in the 80s, it is a huge surprise that such an undertaking was a success.

    I know I keep bringing up the time period and the production, that makes it all the more surprising.

    "Surviving" stars Len Cariou, Zach Galligan (Gremlins), Marsha Mason, Paul Sorvino, Ellen Burstyn, River Phoenix and Heather O'Rourke. Could anything go wrong? No, just the opposite happens.

    Zach Galligan plays high school senior, Rick Brogan. He has it all: friends, two younger siblings (Phoenix and O'Rourke), loving parents, money, and brains. His father is a doctor (Cariou) Who Rick idolizes. Rick is ready to become a doctor just like his dear old dad while still doing photography on the side. When Rick seeing his dad is being unfaithful, it kills him inside. Rick starts acting out, throws his medical exam, and spends more time with his new girlfriend, Lonnie (Ringwald) Who recently got out of the hospital for a suicide attempt. Her parents (Sorvino and Mason) and Rick's parents disapprove of them being together, but that just makes their love stronger. The chemistry between Galligan and Ringwald is tremendous. I will go so far as to call this the best romance in all of Ringwald's career.

    With things in Rick and Lonnie's lives spinning out of control, he proposes a pact to end it all. They do it by gas inhalation. They are found by Lonnie's parents in a heartbreaking scene. The whole thing is heartbreaking thus far, but the reactions to their deaths amp up the heartache.

    When the movie turns into pre-"13 Reasons" what we get may actually exceed the show. The acting by all is first rate and shocking how there were no Emmys or Golden Globes. Seeing everyone's reactions and coping are simply breathtaking. What makes the arguably better than 13 Reasons is that this focuses primarily on the family and this shows how people get through it. Surviving is a full tale that shows the best effects of losing a loved one.

    This is one of the best films I have ever seen, tv or theatrical.

    4/4
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I just want to thank the writers and the actors for creating this movie it really helped me to stop wanting to kill myself i am now 46 years old with 6 kids making over 40 K a year i am paralyzed on my left side due to shooting myself with a 38 25 + years ago and a few years later I watched this movie and it changed my life i honestly can tell you it did. I also asked GOD to help me and he did. I also believe this movie should be played at schools if I had seen this when I was in school it probably would have Scaruied me Straight you might say. I hope that this may help others and will tell them that don't waste you life for anyone People who commit suicide do it by accident thankfully i was not one of them.
  • I was at a low point in my life when I saw this movie on TV. I had been having many suicidal thoughts and was in therapy for Depression. This movie convinced me NEVER to attempt suicide! Many scenes in this movie have stayed vividly in my mind. Although it's a sad movie, it also contains hope, especially for families who have been affected by someone's suicide. For me, seeing this movie might have been one of the MOST important influences that has resulted in me being alive today! When I talk to suicidal people, I tell them how much this movie impressed me and kept me from attempting suicide. If you have a family member or friend who is depressed or has talked of suicide, please watch this movie with him/her. Although it may make evoke some painful feelings in the person, it will also give them many insights on why suicide is not the answer. I recommend being with the depressed person when they watch it, and also staying with them afterwards to talk about the many feelings it brings up. Therapists - This is an excellent movie - try to obtain it and watch it! I have gone on in my life to major in Psychology and this movie very accurately portrays the many emotions...both in suicidal people and in their families. I hope this movie may prevent someone else from committing suicide. Bless you. Karen
  • gdavidso16 August 2000
    This movie has been repackaged and is now on video with the title of "Tragedy". Over the top melodrama with excellent performances by Marcia and Ellen. Scene after scene of very heavy material. James Horner's score is about 8 bars long but used repetitively throughout the film to the point of being distracting.
  • dancas-217 February 2007
    I saw this movie 16 years ago when i was 16. I had tried to commit suicide the year before and what I saw in the movie was real, so Real I couldn't keep from crying about it over and over. I am now trying to find a copy for my two oldest teenage children to show them the desperation, depression, and aftermath of decisions made. I honestly think it should be made compulsory viewing in high schools. The acting was a little bit over the top from everyone but it was the subject matter and emotions portrayed that told the story more than anything. If anyone knows where i can get a copy of this movie i would really be appreciative. i would pay well.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I was overwhelmed by this movie in 1985. I think all families with teens should see this film because it shows the after-effects of teen suicide on the surviving family members. It gives hope about how to cope with suicide in your family. Zach Galligan (Gremlins) plays the boy genius of upper-class parents who have high expectations of their boy-wonder to a T, Molly Ringwald (Pretty in Pink) as the confused and much misunderstood misfit is one of her best roles. A young River Phoenix as the little brother who gets lost in shuffle of his families grief is an outstanding (although a small part) performance. Ellen Burstyn and Marsha Mason give heart-wrenching performances as mothers who have lost their children to teen suicide. This film also explores the different ways that people cope with grief and anger at themselves and at their children for taking their own lives. I would recommend Ordinary People as an excellent follow-up movie to this well-made, well-acted made-for-TV-movie.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Took me a couple of nights cause its kinda long but not really mostly cause I see that actor and I'm like that's that guy from the 80s who did that and she had gone and done that, so I spend half the night on IMDB to see where I can find my little darlings but anyway, back to this movie, boy, what can you say, Molly, wooo! River! the little girl from Poltergeist and the guy from Gremlins woooo hoo whoop it up! But here in this gem , although family, was very tragic , the content was very laid down with very thick sauce and lots of preaching about but unlike most after school specials they don't come charged with this much Thespian powers and the parents as well are a big deal in the actor fold. But anyway, did anyone see how cute River and the lil' girl from Poltergeist were in every scene they are outshining everyone and all by doing lil' gestures or mannerisms and contortions in their faces to relate more and more than just their dialogue which gets pretty heavy in the latter half of the show. But this was really really good, although I didn't like to see my Molly laying there like some useless ugly stiff in the front lawn like that, I really really thought they somehow got there in time to save them, but , I'm stupid since the movie is all about teen suicide, but its really really neat. I recommend it, although I feel sorry for Molly to play dead like that on someone's front lawn , not cool Hollywood! But I'm just glad she's still alive since one of the comments was like RiP Mollly and I'm like oh hell no, she's still alive so I came here to make sure and surely she is alive and well, now doing the mommy thing, another thing I don't like Hollywood but I understand it, It is sad to see the Molly I love and grew up with now playing all those mommy roles, at least give her more air time, and yes mommy age can do a lot more than just play the background 'OH here comes mom again to ruin our scene!' Hollywood!? Oh well, Love you Molly and River and the girl from Poltergeist RIP but not Molly!
  • eric-1444 April 1999
    Excellant heartwrenching tearjerker about two teenagers in love. When they discover they cannot be together they do something that will affect their families for life. the two families must come together and help each other deal with their problems faced by what their children have done. Excellent acting, direction and a moving score. Recommended highly. Saw it a long time ago on tv. wish it was on video.
  • I didn't think my senior year of school could get any better, that is until my health teacher announced that we would spend the next few classes watching a made for TV movie that she referred to as "Rick and Lonnie." Those classes soon became the best of my high school career. Now, the entire movie is utterly fantastic, but the far and away best scene was Rick running through the park after witnessing something absolutely traumatizing. River Pheonix has a stint in this film and his acting was seriously overlooked. He really made the viewers feel his pain throughout the movie, tear. This is some superb acting folks and you'd be a fool to not want to watch this film.
  • princessgidggy16 September 2004
    I remember watching this movie, I was about 10 at the time and I didn't really understand. Than a few years later I saw it again and this time... I was moved. This movie taught me how hard a family takes a suicide. When you've become so depressed that you can no longer live, you often forget about those who love you... this movie helps someone remember. I would still to this day... almost 30 years later, suggest that every teenager watch this movie. The acting is in good taste and everyone involved gave a great performance. A+ all the way. Does anyone know where is can be bought?
  • I just watched this on Lifetime (thanks!) and it was a very strong, well crafted story. I read the book years ago, and always wanted to see how the movie turned out. Funny to note, since it was released in 85, and now it's 2001, that two of the stars, not the main ones, are gone....(Heather O'Rourke, River Phoenix) What the families go through is really sad, and wrenching, but there's so much truth to what Rick and Lonnie feel was the only thing left for them. This film does not make light of the situation, nor does it show that any of the answers are easy. I wish the network would make it available on video/DVD etc.
  • anyone know where can i find this movie i seen it when i was young its a great movie..anyone know where can i find this movie i seen it when i was young its a great movie..anyone know where can i find this movie i seen it when i was young its a great movie..anyone know where can i find this movie i seen it when i was young its a great movie..anyone know where can i find this movie i seen it when i was young its a great movie..anyone know where can i find this movie i seen it when i was young its a great movie..anyone know where can i find this movie i seen it when i was young its a great movie..anyone know where can i find this movie i seen it when i was young its a great movie..anyone know where can i find this movie i seen it when i was young its a great movie..