Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Review of Adopted: The Movie

Adopted: the Movie
a film by Barb Lee
Review by malinda
What this film is about: OK, I think most of you know what this is about! I've posted about it here, and here, and here. But as the synopsis at the website explains, "one family is just beginning the process of adopting a baby from China and is filled with hope and possibility. The other family’s adopted Korean daughter is now 32 years old. Prompted by her adoptive mother’s terminal illness, she tries to create the bond they never had. The results are riveting, unpredictable and telling. While the two families are at opposite ends of the journey, their stories converge to show us that love isn’t always enough."
The stories are gripping and heartbreaking, and more than a little depressing. In some ways, it showed that new adopters are learning from mistakes of the past -- the family just adopting from China are shown watching a Mei Mei Chinese video with their daughter, for example. But then the new adoptive mother explains how her daughter has done all her grieving in China and attached to them after a few days; juxtaposed with that is 32-year-old Jennifer who is still grieving and who is still trying to build a bond with her adoptive mother after all these years.
It is painful to watch Jennifer struggle with trying to get her family to see her for who she is, in the face of what seems at times like wilful ignorance. She takes her dad to the Sons of the American Revolution building, where she explains that one of his relatives fought in the Revolutionary War so that he is entitled to membership. A worker there says female relatives are eligible for membership in Daughters of the American Revolution -- but only biological descendents. She clearly wants him to stand up for her in some way, maybe by refusing membership, but his response is almost flippant, a "too bad, we love you anyway, kid" kind of response. It is even more painful to hear her adoptive mother say that she feels nothing for her daughter's birth mother, and can't understand why she should be expected to, even as Jennifer explains that it feels like a rejection of her -- her eyes, her face, her skin. And most painful of all is to see Jennifer losing the struggle to cope by slipping into self-destructive behavior.
And then the two most painful lines in the movie for me:
"You only got her because she was abandoned. And she knows that, at a younger age than you can ever imagine.”
"To this point the most dangerous thing I've ever done in my life is bringing up the topic of my adoption with my family."
None of this, however, is pain to be avoided. This film is something that every adult member of a transracial adoptive family should see. I highly recommend it.
What I liked about the movie: The honesty.
It was also fun for me to see scenes of Nanning -- the daughter of the newly adopting family in China is from Guangxi Province, and I'm pretty sure I recognized those headboards as from the Majestic Hotel.
And a real positive in the movie was how supportive Jennifer's older brother -- biological child of her adoptive parents -- was of her search for identity.
What I didn't like about the movie: Jennifer is not a wholly sympathetic character -- but that, of course, is that honesty part! Those who are of a mind to dismiss what she has to say will find plenty of reasons to do so. But then, the movie would have been too pat and unrealistic if she had been portrayed as a saintly sufferer. It's just that I want everyone who sees the film to "get it," and to have no excuses to avoid understanding.
What I learned/How this film helped me: I learned that we've come a long way, and have a long, long way to go.


Wendy said...

I agree that this is a must see and I made it a must see for my parents (who don't get it), their attitudes have changed since the film and I am glad for it--not fully, but it is a work in progress I guess.

The foster mother to Roma is also M's foster mother. We have had pics of Roma since she came into care and then after the adoption I tracked Jacqui down for our shared foster mother and now they also have contact--so do we.

I also hope that those who tend to dismiss will actually LISTEN and HEAR, especially the supplemental DVD--learning aspect of the combined films. It is vital that all AP's and PAP's watch this film--I have heard it will be a part of adoption training in the future. I hope so.

Not to let the cat out of the bag so soon, but we are going to be in the follow up book--you can read about it on the website--our family interview is next Friday with Nancy. I am very excited to talk with her--I have on the phone and via email and I know it will be a wonderful and thoughtful experience for us.

I would ask everyone to view the film.

Wendy said...

btw Malinda, that was the Majestic. Also, I cannot fully describe the feelings of watching LiYun lose Roma and posing that against Jacqui's and John's joy. Bittersweet.

malinda said...

Wow, Wendy, that's great about the follow-up book! I know y'all will be PERFECT for giving people a different, more inclusive, view of adoption with your ongoing relationship with M.'s foster mom. How amazing that Roma's and M's foster mom are the same.

During that scene, I kept thinking about Maya's foster mom, of course. And I used your description of the "adoption square" rather than the "adoption triad" when talking to my students about foster care.

Wendy said...

Thanks for talking about our family idea of the square.

I also wanted to mention that since M "knows" Roma via the internet we showed her parts of the film with Roma on them and also the part with Li Yun, she was so happy to see her foster mother (she says she is famous!). I was not sure how she would react, but she actually likes to see it--she says she knows Mama loves her too and she cried sad and happy tears because she and Roma got new families. I think it gave her another level of understanding about having a foster family.

Elizabeth said...

Just out of curiosity, did you have to purchase the DVD? I really want to see it, but was hoping that I could find it at the library or luck so far. I would like to purchase it, but with every extra cent going to fund our adoption.......well, you know.

malinda said...

Yes, I had to buy it. You might approach your local library about buying it so that you can borrow it -- tell them about the large number of internationally adopted children in the area (even if it's not quite the case!) and that there would be great interest, and maybe they will.

Good luck!

Wendy said...

I also bought it, but it is supposed to be released in March for places like libraries, etc.

Great idea Malinda.

henna's hearsay said...

I look forward to seeing this and enjoyed the review. From what I have watched on YouTube, I am worried that I will have a holier than thou attitude since I *think* there is no way I would approach adoption issues like her parents.

Our daughter has been with us for over two years and I feel like she was a closed up little flower bud that continues to open. I realize that soon she may close up again as her understand of her reality matures. At three she tells us she doesn't want to go to China.

I am looking forward to viewing the section that includes parents and professionals. I don't think I say that in the review, but I may have just read too quickly

Wendy said...

The supplemental video is key. The families in the documentary are not polar opposites, but far on the scale of where adoption was and where we are going (continually a work in progress). The learning section also gives insight to the journey the "new" family is taking as well and how their attitudes were becoming even more progressive after adoption--and I can say personally even more so now. The professional end of things is where the most learning will come, the documentary helps to set the stage for the real work.

Sheri said...

I'd love to see this film, depressing as it clearly is from the youtube previews. I've been on their email list for ages - but the price is just too high, especially coupled with all the other films needed in our family library (e.g. anything by Dr. Changfu Chang, and the "One Day in Ping Wei" series, etc.). I'm hoping to be able to rent "Adopted, The Movie" at some point (tho I haven't rented a movie in years!!) and I even have a search for it on eBay, in case someone lists it there used. Thanks for the suggestion to contact the local library and see if they'll purchase it. I'm also going to check with CASE - - to see if they plan to make it available as a workshop. Another option might be for FCC groups to purchase a copy and schedule showings of the film with discussion sessions to follow. Hmmmm.... will propose that idea to our FCC group!

Mei-Ling said...

"And most painful of all is to see Jennifer losing the struggle to cope by slipping into self-destructive behavior."

How so?

Mei-Ling said...

Things that say "love without boundaries" bother me because they give me the vibes of the "love conquers all" mentality.

I know that's NOT what people mean. I know their intentions are good.

But adoption is not just about love. Like I said in a comment on Yahoo Answers: "You can't be your children. You can't. You can empathize, but NOT sympathize. Love will not defeat discrimination,
blood ties, or racism."

I wish I could see the movie, but it's really expensive to order...

malinda said...

Mei-Ling, I didn't want to spoil the movie by indicating too much about it -- maybe people don't care, but it seems a reviewer's responsibility not to be a spoiler!


By the end of the movie, Jennifer is going into rehab for addiction to prescription meds. She also talks about her promiscuity, as a way of coping -- she said as an Asian woman she often felt that was all she was good at at being Asian.

Jackie Lantry said...

Jennifer seems to me just another garden variety drug addict, with a bit of narcissistic personality disorder thrown in. What a selfish, self-centered, egotist! She hasn't gone through more crap-in fact she's gone through less crap than most people! Poor thing, she was adopted into a loving, safe and kind family...poor thing. Quit whining Jennifer, you are tiresome. We all have crosses to bear, we all have abandonment issues, we all have been called horrible names-AND SOME OF US DIDNT HAVE LOVING PARENTS TO FALL BACK ON. You are nothing more than a garden variety addict, consumed and obsessed with me, me, me...