Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Loggerheads Adoption Movie Review

Three seemingly separate stories are woven together in Tim Kirkman’s 2005 film, Loggerheads. Mark is a young, homeless wanderer who is devoted to saving the Loggerhead turtles on Kure Beach. He enters a relationship with George, a motel owner, and is able to share about his history. Elsewhere an airport rental car agent named Grace is mourning the loss of her son to adoption, which occurred approximately 20 years ago. In the central town of Eden, a minister and his wife are worried when it appears that their new neighbors are a gay couple.

*Huge Spoiler Alert*
Mark is the son that Grace gave up to adoption, and he was adopted by the ministerial couple. He became estranged from them when they did not embrace his homosexuality. Mark is dying of AIDS. His adoptive father refuses to see him, and his adoptive mother, although ultimately willing to meet him, waits too long. However, Mark’s birthmother and adoptive mother do develop a relationship with each other after Mark’s death, and it seems that Mark’s birthmother also gets to know George. Through these relationships, they are able to find some healing.
*End Spoiler*

How Does This Connect to Adoption and Foster Care?
Loggerheads is a relatively rare film in that it shares the points of view of members of three sides of an adoption – adoptee, birth family, and adoptive family. 
Strong Points
Loggerheads shows that birthparents do not forget their children; Grace shared that she is always wondering who and where her son is; she wonders if a similar-aged stranger might be her son. The film shows the grief she still has at the loss – and the fact that the grief is exacerbated by a lack of communication between Grace and her mother. It shows the anger and hurt that Grace still feels about the powerlessness she felt at the time; Grace asserts that the adoption was not her own choice. It shows the frustration that is caused when governmental officials refuse to release Mark’s records to Grace. It also shows some healing that occurs when Grace and her mother finally clear the air.

The film suggests that openness can be established and benefitted from, even after years of an adoption being closed. When Mark’s adoptive mother and birthmother walk together, they acknowledge the fear they felt, and each affirmed the other’s role in Mark’s life.


Loggerheads captures the pain felt by – and perhaps caused by – people touched by adoption, but in doing so, it sometimes feels to lean heavily against the adoptive parents and the church. In its portrayal of pain being felt and caused, it may cause pain to some viewers whose stories too closely mirror the story in the film. If there is a villain in the film, it is Mark’s adoptive father. The minister is unfailingly judgmental, two-faced, and unforgiving. This may be an accurate depiction of how ministers are perceived by some, but the character does seem to fulfill several unkind stereotypes. Mark acknowledges that he has had to trade sex for lodging and gifts. For some viewers who have been abused, this might come close to painfully mirroring their own experiences. Perhaps because he is on bad terms with his adoptive parents, Mark describes them as “not my real parents.” He acknowledges his longstanding fear that he would be sent back to his orphanage. The governmental official who denies Grace access to Mark’s adoption records tells her that the confidentiality policy is intended to protect the adoptive family from Grace. This hurts Grace, and I could imagine it being painful for some viewers, too. The adoption searching agent who helps Grace find Mark does so because she believes that “people have a right to know who they are and where they came from,” but also charges Grace a very high fee to help her. Mark’s boyfriend George has also felt pain; he believes that his previous boyfriend was murdered. Mark and Grace have each attempted to find each other, but were unable to do so because of laws.
I found a conversation between Grace and her mother especially poignant. They are discussing Grace’s desire to find Mark. Her mother worries, “I don’t understand why you want to do this.” Grace replies that it’s “not a want; it’s a need. I want to know he’s OK.” Her mother asks, “What if he doesn’t need this.” Grace breaks down, “Mom, you’re ashamed of me.” Her mother asks, “Will searching solve anything?” Grace replies, “This might stop me from attempting suicide again.” Loggerheads certainly portrays some strongly-felt emotions. Later on, Grace’s mother returns to Grace and says, “I’m not ashamed of you. I’ve never been ashamed of you. You’re my daughter, and I love you, and of course I think about him; he’s my grandson.” Grace’s mother asks, “What are you going to say when he asks why you gave him away?” Grace answers simply, “The truth.”

Weak Points
One camera shot lingers on the penis of a statue.
Mark’s father refuses to see him. When he learns from his wife that Mark is dying of AIDS, he refuses to see Mark, and his only response is, “God punishes. Mark made his choice.” Mark remembers his father as a man who was “mad, yelling, and said I’d burn in hell.”

Loggerheads deals with some of the same issues as Philomena. In both films, a birthmother seeks her long-ago-adopted son, and finds him too late. Either film could help adoptive and prospective adoptive parents start to see adoption through the eyes of a birthparent, and could hopefully be helpful in developing empathy. Birthfamily members might find this film painful or healing; Grace does heal, but her pain is profound. The film does portray a “worst case” scenario for an adoptive family, which might be worrying to people who do not know how their child is doing, after adoption. That anxiety, coupled with the pain felt by many characters in this film, lead me to see this film as a strong example of why openness is needed in adoption. The weight and sadness of the film make it best suited to an adult audience, and even adult viewers should be aware that the film might have some trigger potential.
Questions for Discussion
What fears might an adoptive parent have about her son’s birth parents?
What fears might a birthmother or birthfather have about their child’s adoptive parents?
The film’s portrayals of the government, the church, the adoptive father, and Grace’s mother all seem to be largely negative. Are these realistic, or are they more caricatures?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Remember My Story Removed Part 2 Adoption Movie Review

It’s National Foster Care Month, and filmmakers Nathanael and Christina Matanick have released a powerful film that challenges us to think about the life experiences of kids in foster care. Remember My Story is the sequel to the powerful film, ReMoved, which was a viral hit after being quietly uploaded last year.

We revisit Zoe, a young girl who has come into foster care because of domestic violence. She is doing well in the home of her foster mother, and loves being able to share a home with her infant brother Beniah. Zoe’s mother continues to go through the court process, and a judge has to make decisions that will impact Zoe, Beniah, and the people that love them. Zoe has been reading The Wizard of Oz, and feels as though, like Dorothy, she is subject to an unpredictable tornado.

The Adoption Connection

Zoe and Beniah are kids in foster care. Their mother loves them, but a judge reminds us that the question isn’t whether she loves them, but whether she has maintained a parental relationship with them. Although Zoe and Beniah are siblings, it’s very possible that their cases will progress differently. Lots of people have choices to make – the judge, social workers, the foster mother, prospective adoptive parents, and even, to some extent, Zoe’s mother. Really, the only people without a voice are Zoe and Beniah. That’s the storm we join Zoe in as the story begins. Zoe opens with a challenge to adults, “You see your story, not mine. You can’t heal me. This is my story. I have to make peace with it.”

Strong Points

Remember My Story manages to capture a lot of the aspects and emotions of the foster-adoption process in only 20 minutes. Zoe’s continued placement with her brother comes into question, Zoe’s mom is given a “goodbye” visit and is told that she will not see her kids again, a judge asks whether an court-appointed advocate is present in court for Zoe (there isn’t), and in the midst of this, we see Zoe’s emotions. Sometimes her emotions boil over – at one point, she throws papers at her foster mother, and tells her, “I hate you.” We see that the system’s initial answer to her emotional distress is to medicate her, but Zoe’s foster mom challenges this, and Zoe encourages us to understand that her behavior makes sense in a context – she challenges us, “You see what I do, but forget why.”
Zoe’s foster mom is an excellent example of foster parenting. She is patient, kind, loving, and persistent.

We get to see Zoe as a young woman, thriving, and using her childhood experiences to help other children in similar situations.


Remember My Story is very effective. I found myself feeling angered, sad, hopeful, and joyful. 

These are emotions that are very real to foster care – for the adults involved and for the kids. 

Remember My Story has the potential to help adults develop compassion and understanding for kids 
in foster care. It’s a very real film which will likely be highly impactful to viewers who are, or have been, in foster care, and for kids particularly, I could see it as either triggering or healing; parents probably should watch it first, and then watch it alongside your kids, prepared to process it with them. This film is a can’t-miss for adults who care about kids in care.  

Questions for Discussion

How can you impact the lives of kids in Foster Care? Check out this (admittedly hand-drawn) flowchart

Would you make a good CASA? CASAs (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) are volunteers who follow a child’s journey through foster care and speak on their behalf in court.

When children react to life as Zoe does, yelling and speaking hurtfully, many parents would try to correct her, but her foster parent instead tries to empathize with her. What helped her be able to do that? What benefits does that approach bring to Zoe?

Interested in seeing Remember My Story? Here’s a list of upcoming screenings: http://removedfilm.com/pages/screenings

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Feeling Wanted - Short Film Review

In the short film, Feeling Wanted, Charrel Star Charleston narrates her own journey into and through foster care. She was left home alone, left with a great grandmother, and eventually taken into foster care. Charleston shares honestly about the abuse she suffered in care, the social anxiety caused by the fear of her classmates discovering that she was in foster care, and the insensitive ways that social workers handled her moves from foster home to foster home. Charleston also remembers, tearfully and gratefully, a small act of kindness done by a typically-mean foster sister. As an adult, she reflects on her continual process of forgiving her parents for what she experienced.

This short film is packed with insight. I noticed that, six minutes in, I had already taken three pages of notes. Feeling Wanted is an excellent resource for foster families, and for foster family agencies. It’s honest, thorough, and hopeful, and gets a high recommendation from Adoption at the Movies.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron Adoption Movie Review

The Avengers are raiding a base in an Eastern European country where the villainous Baron von Strucker is using a powerful artifact to experiment on two orphaned twins, Wanda and Pietro. In the course of the raid, the Avengers obtain the artifact, and some of the Avengers begin some experiments of their own. These experiments bring great peril that threatens the entire world, and threatens the cohesion of the Avengers themselves.

The Adoption Connection

Wanda and Pietro were orphaned during a military conflict. They have a strong bond with each other, and the person that they hold responsible for the loss they have experienced.

One character presents an interesting view of the function of children, “People create children to support them, to help them end.”

Two characters reveal to each other that they are infertile. One was sterilized as part of her spy/assassin training; she explains that her trainers believed the infertility “makes everything easier” because children would be too important to the operative.

Strong Points

The recent Marvel films are studies in motivation – what motivates people to act? Wanda and Pietro are motivated by vengeance. Wanda is able to manipulate others’ thoughts. She makes the Avengers see and confront their deepest fears, and the fears motivate them to action. Another character suggests that calamity happens when nations act out of fear, “Every time someone tries to end a war before it starts, innocent people die.” Examining our motivations is worthwhile, because the reasons we do things impact the way in which we do those things. Actions done out of fear or anger will be carried out differently than the same (or similar) actions done out of concern or rational thought or love. It’s true about adoption, too – the motivation behind an action, whether a decision to pursue adoption, or a decision about whether to keep an adoption open, or even a decision about whether to maintain a challenging foster care placement – the motivation propelling the action is very important, and worth examining and challenging.

The twins eventually realize the potential cost of their thirst for vengeance, and seem to have a change of heart.

One character (Scarlet Witch) provides an interesting example of an obviously manipulative person; I always think it’s worthwhile for parents to talk with teens about how peers can be manipulative.

The Avengers show that friends can stick together in spite of hard times and hurt feelings.


Some viewers may be shaken by the twins’ story: they lost their parents traumatically, in a situation which also threatened the kids’ physical safety. That captures, in a nutshell, the stories of some kids who have come into foster care, and I could imagine this scene being a trigger for some of them.

Scenes of general, large-scale peril may also disturb some viewers with sensitivity to violence.

*BIG SEMI-SPOILER*   One character dies on screen after being shot. That could be hard for some viewers.


Avengers: Age of Ultron is an enjoyable movie with action, humor, and opportunities for real life reflection.   Some violence, discussion of parents dying, and the on-screen death of a character could be jarring for some viewers, but overall this should be a good choice for most viewers 12 and up, and their parents.

Questions for Discussion

What’s usually more important – what you do, or why you do it?

Do you tend to plan for the worst case or for the best case scenario?

One character says, “Everyone creates the things they dread.” Do you agree?

What are you most scared of? Is it a helpful or unhelpful fear?

Have you ever found order in chaos?
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