Supposedly the greatest silent film ever made and one of the most impressive films I've seen lately. King Vidor had made a ton of money for MGM with his war film The Big Parade. Vidor was allowed to pick a topic for a follow up film. King Vidor decided to tell the story of an ordinary couple living in the big city. He had at his disposal all the resources of MGM to make his film.
John and Mary meet, fall in love, get married and have children. One of their children dies, John loses his job, and by the end of the film there is some question whether the marriage will survive. That's the whole film.
King Vidor's strong direction and careful attention to detail definitely made this domestic drama a special film. The character of John Sims is not a particularly likable guy and seems like kind of a loser. His wife Mary, puts up with a lot but seems committed to making the marriage work. Telling this kind of story in 1928 with actors who were not stars was fairly daring approach.
Vidor used lots of expressionistic camera work clearly influenced by UFA studios in Germany, but he was also able to stay focused on the family right through the bittersweet ending.