Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Ponyo Adoption Movie Review

Fathom Events recently brought Ponyo back to the big screen as part of this year’s Studio Ghibli Fest. For more information on upcoming dates,click here.

When young Sosuke finds a goldfish trapped in a glass jar, he rescues her, takes her home, and names her Ponyo. This is a magical goldfish, though; she has healing powers, loves eating ham – and learns how to talk. Ponyo decides that she loves Sosuke, and she would be content to live on land with him. However, her father, Fujimoto, wants to get her back. Fujimoto is a wizard and scientist who was once human, but now lives underwater. He is eager to reclaim Ponyo. Ponyo desires to return to Sosuke, and the strength of her desire combines with her magical abilities to create a great storm – and to turn Ponyo into a human. Will she be able to stay that way?


The Adoption Connection

Sosuke finds Ponyo in a dangerous situation. He provides her safety, and names her Ponyo. When Ponyo returns to her home, she refuses to allow her father to call her by her birth name. Sosuke, Ponyo, and their families must make sense of what has happened, and Ponyo’s parents must decide whether Ponyo can remain a human.

Strong Points

Sosuke and Ponyo are both brave.

We learn that Ponyo’s father is caring – even though he seems creepy and even though Ponyo describes him in frightening ways.

Sosuke and Ponyo become friends in spite of their differences. Aware that Ponyo has been a human and a fish, Sosuke says that he loves Ponyo, “whatever she is.”

Some frightening storm images could be unpleasant for young viewers.

The uncertainty that surrounds whether Ponyo can stay with Sosuke or if she must return to her birth family could be difficult for some viewers who have had instability of family status.

For a season, Sosuke is separated from his parents. Even though he is only five years old, his mother leaves him and Ponyo alone during a storm while she goes off to check on the seniors at the center where she works.  


Ponyo is a charming but sometimes scary story about an unlikely, magical friendship. Some viewers who have been touched by adoption may find parallels as Ponyo adjusts to being in a new world and as she takes ownership of her new name. Although some frightening scenes could make this one uncomfortable for some young viewers, Ponyo seems likely to be OK for most kids ages 10 and up.  

Questions for Discussion

Why did Ponyo love Sosuke? Why did Sosuke love Ponyo?

What do you think it was like for Ponyo to be in a new home?
Do you think Ponyo will miss Fujimoto and Granmamare? Do you imagine that they’ll find ways to see each other?

Other Ideas

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Sherlock Gnomes Adoption Movie Review

Gnomeo and Juliet have been named the leaders of gardenful of gnomes. While they’re sorting through the emotional challenges of taking on new roles in a new home, they are shocked to find that all of their fellow gnomes have been kidnapped. Gnomeo and Juliet join forces with the famous detective Sherlock Gnomes and his underappreciated assistant Gnome Watson to try to find the missing gnomes, who they believe have been captured by the evil Moriarty.


The Adoption Connection

There is no adoption element to the film, although some viewers will relate to the concept of having new lives in a new location.

Strong Points

The film has a relatively thickly-laid-on theme of “don’t take your friends for granted.” It’s not a bad message, it’s just applied heavily and a bit carelessly.


The theme of mass kidnapping could be scary for some viewers.

It appears that Watson falls to his death.

It feels like Juliet ends up being repentant for having healthy boundaries with Gnomeo.

A twisted genius tries to have Sherlock be the “unwitting executioner” of all those that he has tried to protect.


Sherlock Gnomes could be scary for very young viewers or for viewers with a particular fear of kidnapping, but it seems likely to be fine for most viewers ages 9 and up. It probably won’t appeal to viewers much older than 11.

Questions for Discussion

How could Sherlock and Watson have improved their communication ahead of time to avoid all the hurt feelings? Whose job would it have been to fix that relationship? Sherlock? Watson? Both?

When he thought Watson had died, Sherlock did not demonstrate any negative feelings. This upset Juliet. Why don’t you think Sherlock seemed sad? Sherlock said that “sadness and anger won’t help. Emotion is the enemy of logic.” In what ways is he right? In what ways do you disagree with him?  

Who are some of your most dependable friends?

Other Ideas

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Ready Player One Adoption Movie Review

The Plot

In a dystopian future, humanity has turned away from the depressing, overcrowded real world, and spends all of their time in an online, virtual reality universe known as The Oasis. When the founder of the Oasis dies, a treasure hunt for control of his fortune – and control of the Oasis – brings out the best and the worst of people. A young man named Wade Watts is the first to make progress in the treasure hunt, and news of his success earns him worldwide fame, but subjects him to the dangerous intentions of an evil corporation.


The Adoption Connection
Wade’s parents have both died. Wade lives with his Aunt Alice and her physically abusive boyfriend. We see the boyfriend hit Wade on one occasion. One of Wade’s friends reveals that one of their parents died in a sort of debtors’ prison.  

Strong Points
The film encourages its viewers to embrace life in the real world, and to not let fear stop them from taking important steps.

Two characters have experienced parental loss. One has to flee his home when it becomes unsafe, and is apparently abducted.
A character kills his friend’s avatar in the virtual world to help them in the real world.

Ready Player One is one of my favorite books. The movie is not a faithful translation of the book, but it does seem to stand on its own as a decent, imaginative action movie. Some scenes may be too loud or scary for younger viewers, but this one should be OK for most viewers ages 11 and up.

Questions for Discussion
Have you ever had an online friend or a pen-pal?
What would you do if you won half a trillion dollars?
If you could control the Internet, what changes would you make?

Other Ideas

Saturday, March 31, 2018

I Lived on Parker Avenue

Now that he’s nearly twenty, David sets out on a journey to meet his birthparents in this 30-minute documentary which is currently available on YouTube. David’s adoptive parents support him emotionally on this journey; he reveals that he has tried to be conscientious of their feelings by not expressing much of his thoughts about his birth parents, and his adoptive parents assure David that they are not hurt by his curiosity about his birth parents. They take this journey with him.

I Lived On Parker Avenue is an impressively wide-scoped documentary. We hear about the adoption from each of David’s birth parents and from his adoptive parents. David’s birth mother is pained to share that she almost had an abortion, but that at the last minute she declined; she has carried guilt from that experience for much of her adult life, and appears relieved when David tells her that he does not hate her for that – but in fact, loves her. It is important to point out that the theme of her almost having an abortion plays a large theme in the film; she revists the building with David, and he thanks her for not having an abortion. She is often tearful. The film does have the potential to be triggering for people who regret having had an abortion or who have dealt with infertility.

David's mother decribes the adoption as bittersweet, acknowledging that letting David be adopted was hard for her, because she wanted to keep him.  I loved her phrasing, “I did the right thing for him – not for myself.”   David expresses that he was never upset about being adopted, but that he wondered if his birth parents ever thought about him. David’s birth father expresses happiness in seeing that David shares appearance and personality with him.

I appreciated the honesty in the documentary – David shares his fears that his birth parents won’t fit into his life; David’s birth parents share their anxieties; David’s adoptive parents share the grief that they experienced prior to choosing adoption, but in spite of this, they have a supportive reunion.

Recommendation and Questions for Discussion

I Lived on Parker Avenue has our high recommendation for adoptive parents and for people considering becoming adoptive parents. It's focus on abortion could be unsettling for some viewers and welcome for others. Apart from this, though, the film is also one of the more successful adoption documentaries in its inclusion of so many perspectives of the people in David's adoptive and birth families. As you watch this film, consider the ways in which reunion can be helpful for everyone touched by adoption. Do David’s birth parents conform to or challenge your preconceptions about birth parents? What benefits could an open adoption have for your children?

Watch It Now

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time Adoption Movie Review (Spoilers)

Shortly after doctors Alex and Kate Murry adopt the precocious, brilliant young Charles Wallace, Alex disappears. Several years later, Charles Wallace, his older sister Meg, and Kate miss and remember Alex, but do not know why or where he has gone. And then, a mysterious stranger appears, leading Meg, Charles Wallace, and a third friend on a journey across the universe to find their missing father.


The Adoption Connection

Alex and Kate have adopted Charles Wallace. Before Charles Wallace arrives, they speak beautifully about adoption to Meg, saying that, out of all of the people in the universe, how wonderful it is that they have found each other.
Alex disappears. Charles Wallace only learns of him from what Kate and Meg teach him, but he still defends Alex’s name, scolds teachers who speak unkindly of his family, and – to bring joy to Meg and Kate – tries his best to find Alex.

When Meg and Charles Wallace eventually find their father, Charles Wallace comes under the influence of an evil entity. He becomes a threat to Meg and Alex in a series of scenes with some frightening visual imagery. Alex tries to escape, and intends to leave Charles Wallace behind, intending to come back from him later, once Meg is safe. Meg refuses to leave Charles Wallace behind, however. Eventually, Charles Wallace is freed from the entity, and the family returns to their home, greeting a surprised and overjoyed Kate with her long-missing husband.

Strong Points

Kate and Alex speak very positively about adoption.

Charles Wallace loves his adoptive father, even though his adoptive father disappeared while Charles Wallace was very young. Charles Wallace identifies strongly with his family and stands up for them. Later, Meg stands up for Charles Wallace – even going against her father when he appears to be willing to leave Charles Wallace behind.

The film shows that everyone – even bullies – deal with sadness. One character, quoting an ancient poet, says, “The wound is where the light enters you.”


It could be hard for some kids to enjoy a story where a parent is lost without reason. Also, some of Meg’s classmates speak harshly to her suggesting that it would be good if Meg was gone too. One character voices that Meg’s dad “would rather be anywhere than with you.”  

Some families might find it frustrating that it’s the adopted child who gets possessed by an evil entity. It could also be very hard for some kids to see that, after a long absence, Charles Wallace’s father is willing to leave him behind.

A principal tells Meg, “You need to stop using your dad’s disappearance as an excuse for your (mis)behavior.” That might be fair advice, but then he also tells her that she should probably expect that he won’t come back. She reacts against that and prepares to leave his office; he doesn’t recognize that he’s stepped over a line, and only tells her that he hasn’t excused her.  

A young boy’s father criticizes him harshly and unfairly.


A Wrinkle in Time is a visually beautiful film with some good sibling-loyalty dynamics among adopted siblings, but themes of parental separation – and even perhaps parental abandonment – plus a scene in which an adopted child is possessed by an evil entity – may unpleasantly surprise some adoptive families. I’m most comfortable recommending this film to ages 13 and up.

Questions for Discussion

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?

Was Alex wrong to be willing to leave Charles Wallace? Why did Meg insist on not leaving him behind?

Why were the kids mean to Meg?

Meg has a very good friend in Calvin, and a loving family. Who are some of your best friends?

Other Ideas

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Early Man (Spoilers) Adoption Movie Review

Dug’s prehistoric tribe has been displaced by the greedy Lord Nooth, who declares that the Bronze Age has begun. Dug convinces his tribe – and Lord Nooth – to make a deal: the civilizations will play a match of soccer. If Dug’s tribe wins, they get their land back. If they lose, they’ll be lifelong slaves in Lord Nooth’s mines. Dug’s confidence is shaken when he learns that, although his ancestors invented the game of soccer, they were very bad at it.


The Adoption Connection

Dug learns about his (ancient) family history, and struggles to see that it doesn’t define his future.
Some viewers may relate to Dug’s tribe being displaced by a richer, more powerful, “outsider” society. They may also relate to Dug’s confusion when he unexpectedly finds himself in a strange city.

Strong Points

Dug’s tribe is brave. They are inspired by Dug’s courage, and in return, encourage him when he becomes discouraged.

There’s a theme of inclusion in the film. In the Bronze city, soccer is viewed as a sacred game, and is limited to men. Dug’s team benefits from contributions from two different players who wouldn’t have been allowed to play under the Bronze city’s rules.


A cruel character tells the displaced Dug, “You have no home. Your kind are finished on the earth.”
For a brief, sad moment, it seems like Dug’s chief has died on screen.


Early Man is a fun, lighthearted film. Most kids will enjoy it, and it seems likely to be free of triggers for most kids. It’s possible that some kids who have felt displaced due to their involvement with the foster care system might struggle as they see the displacement of Dug’s tribe, and Dug’s overwhelming arrival in a new city, and others might be sad when it appears that Dug’s chief dies. Outside of this, this feels like a pretty safe film for all ages, and it seems most likely to be enjoyed by kids up to age 11 or 12.

Questions for Discussion

What gave Dug the courage to try to win back his home?

How did Dug feel when he found himself in the big city?

What friends did Dug depend on? Who do you depend on?

Have you ever played soccer?

Other Ideas

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