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.