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Movie Club: On Golden Pond, Directed by Mark Rydell

By Margaret Manning April 12, 2014 Mindset

On Golden Pond” is a classic movie that brings together some of the greatest actors of the 20th century. Its theme is timeless. Examining relationships at the end of life, it explores with compassion and honesty the importance of taking care of unfinished family business.

“On Golden Pond” tells the story of Norman, played by Henry Fonda, and Ethel, played by Katharine Hepburn. They are a long married couple who know each other well. They are spending the summer at their lakeside cabin, when their daughter Chelsea, played by Jane Fonda, arrives on the scene. She shows up with her boyfriend and persuades her parents to look after his little boy for a few weeks while they go on holiday.

Time with the boy gives Norman a chance to reflect on his relationship with his daughter. When she returns, it’s time for them to deal with their complicated feelings for each other. Conversations between Norman and Ethel are refreshing and human. At moments, the fine line between amazing acting, incredible set, real like intimacy, and superb direction come together.

Many women in the Sixty and Me community have dealt with the loss of their parents. Hopefully they had an opportunity to speak words of forgiveness, and self-forgiveness that are often needed. The characters in this movie are stereotypical in some ways, but their vulnerability and dignity shine through.

The relationship between Henry Fonda and his real life daughter Jane will resonate with many women in the community. For me, the family connection gave the movie a special poignancy. It showed the depth of the father/ daughter relationship as well as the complexity of the mother daughter dynamic.

On Golden Pond” is a unique film on many levels. It was Henry Fonda’s last film, Katherine Hepburn’s last movie role, and the only film with Henry and Jane Fonda.

Film critic, Roger Ebert sums up his feelings about the movie when he says, “‘On Golden Pond’ is a treasure for many reasons, but the best one is that I could believe it. I could believe in its major characters and their relationships, and in the things they felt for one another, and there were moments when the movie was witness to human growth and change.”

If you don’t already have a copy of “On Golden Pond” you can get it on Amazon.

To kick things off, here are a few questions for discussion. Please add your thoughts in the comments:

What things in the movie that led you to think differently about relationships with your children?

What was the quality you loved most about the relationship between Ethel and Norman?

Do you have unfinished business to take care of in your family?

Did Jane Fonda’s real life relationship to her father changed the way you perceived the movie?

What is your favourite scene in the movie?

What do you think the director might have done differently?

I hope you enjoy being a part of our movie club for women over 60! Please leave your comments below. 

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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