Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Review (Adoption Movie Review)

Can the Guardians of the Galaxy defeat a supremely powerful entity? An orb contains a power too great to be safely harnessed. It is desired by Thanos, a supremely evil being, who wishes to increase his power. It is also desired by others, who wish to sell it for profit. An unlikely team comes together to protect the universe from the power of those who would destroy it. A thief named Starlord, bounty hunters named Rocket and Groot, a strongman named Drax the Destroyer, and an assassin named Gamora learn to trust each other in spite of initial conflicts. Together, they will try to grow from self-seeking loners into heroic friends. While they’re at it, they might just save the world. Or even the galaxy.
(some spoilers ahead throughout.)

How Does This Connect to Adoption and Foster Care?
The film directly mentions adoption once. One of the characters is introduced as the adopted daughter of a villain. Later, she renounces him; “He’s not my father.” She explains that he murdered her parents, tortured her and bent her to his will.

(Minor spoiler in the paragraph ahead)

I see a lot of relevance in the film’s opening scene.  A young boy named Peter is in the hospital. His mother is lying in her hospital bed, apparently bald from cancer. She is on the verge of death. She asks Peter to hold her hand; he turns away, unable to reach out to her. Immediately, she dies, calling for the hand that he never gave her. Peter, grief and guilt-stricken, screams. It is too late. He runs away from his grandfather and collapses outside. There, a spaceship abducts him. 26 years later, we learn that Peter has become a loner, intergalactic thief. This sequence reminded me powerfully of a child’s introduction to foster care. A child coming into foster care because of abuse shares much with Peter. They both observe or experience a traumatic situation, for which they feels justifiable grief and undeserved guilt. Immediately afterwards, they are picked up by strangers and taken to unfamiliar surroundings. All this happens even before the opening credits. It’s pretty intense. We spend the rest of the film seeing how Peter’s character has developed.  Peter draws considerable strength from the memory of his mother.
We are left looking forward to Peter meeting his long-lost father.

Strong Points

Peter has experienced hardship, but inside he still has a heart of gold.

The Guardians of the Galaxy are a diverse group who have become friends through shared experiences. They acknowledge, together, that they have lost many important things, but have hope that they can still make a difference in the lives of others.

The movie has heavy doses of comic relief – I enjoyed this film more – and had more fun watching it – than any other I’ve seen this year, and this was the most appreciative audience I’ve been a part of.

Grout is a tree. In one scene, he grows his body around his friends, to demonstrate his sense of unity with them. It’s very touching.

The Guardians of the Galaxy grow into believable heroes who are willing to do the right thing, even when it is supremely difficult.

Weak Points

One character honestly and hatefully describes her adoptive father as a murderer torturer. The alien who abducted Peter seems to present himself as a father figure over Peter, but attempts to manipulate Peter by reminding him that Peter is online alive because of him. Later, that character threatens to kill Peter. Peter yells at him, “You abducted me, and stole me from my home and family.” The character had been hired to bring Peter to his father, but changed his mind and absconded with Peter.  

Young kids may be scared by some of the violence in the film. One character gouges another’s face, though the gore is just off-camera. Another character murders a man by hitting him in the head with a sledgehammer – again, the violence is just off-camera, but we do see the victim’s blood. One character recounts that his wife and daughter were murdered while their murderer laughed. A woman disintegrates. A woman is disfigured by a shot from a bazooka. A character is told that others wanted to eat him. One character holds a knife to another’s throat. Many characters are tazed. Larger animals eat smaller ones.
Revenge is a strong motivator for both heroes and villains.


Guardians of the Galaxy is an excellent film for most audience members age 14 and up, but it will probably also appeal to kids as young as 5 (it’s a superhero movie with a raccoon as a lead character) – but it’s too violent and, at times, too sad for me to recommend it for young viewers. The opening scenes depicting Peter’s loss of his mother may also be very difficult, and perhaps triggering, for viewers who have lost their mothers through death or foster care. However, there’s a lot of positive potential in the fact that, in spite of his losses, Peter has become a very heroic man who is loyal to his friends and to the world in general.

I enjoyed this film quite a lot. It’s well-made, fast-paced, deeply plotted, and very funny. I do recommend that parents scope it out before sending their kids. With that caveat, I think it should be a good fit for most teens and adults, but not for many kids younger than 13 or 14.  

Questions for Discussion

How can enemies become friends?

How can pain from our past become a source of strength for today?

What is the difference between “I am Groot” and “We are Groot?”

Monday, July 28, 2014

Love Child Adoption Movie Review

The South Korean-American documentary Love Child debuts tonight on HBO. The film covers the 2010 death in South Korea of three-month old infant Sarang. Sarang’s parents were addicted to an online game, and played it for many hours each night at an internet parlor. On the night of Sarang’s death, her parents left her unattended for many hours.

How Does This Connect to Adoption and Foster Care?
The film doesn’t cover adoption or foster care, but it makes me raise a question, perhaps because of my role as a supervisor in foster care and adoption. Sarang’s parents were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Their punishment was lessened because the court viewed their crime as a result of their addiction. Sarang’s parents are pregnant again. They have promised not to play any online games.
How much involvement should child protective services have in the early life of this new child? I can certainly see the value of monitoring this family to ensure that this new baby’s life does not become endangered. What do you think? Should the government stay away, because the family has expressed remorse and a desire to change? Should the child’s early life be monitored? Should the child preemptively be placed in alternative care? How do the rights of parents interact with the need of a child for dependable safety, and whose job is it to evaluate safety in a situation like this?

Strong Points
The film tries to present a balanced view of Sarang’s parents. They were negligent, but also remorseful; they made poor choices, but did face real challenges. There is value in viewing someone roundly rather than passing judgment on their character based on one observation, even when that observation is very powerful.

A photograph of Sarang’s corpse could be traumatizing to some viewers, as could some of the details of the neglect she experienced.
Sarang’s parents were addicted to an internet game called Prius. The plot of the game comes through the documentary, to some extent, and it is also troubling. Players are granted a child to raise. Later, their child chooses to die to save the player. Then, the player raises the child from the dead, but this causes long-lasting grief in the world.

Weak Points
The film touches on online addiction, but doesn’t go particularly deep into anything.

Love Child might be worth seeing in order to wrestle with some of the questions I ask earlier in this review, but it might be traumatic or saddening viewing for some. The film is best suited to adults instead of kids and teenagers because of some of the subject matter, and it’s not particularly entertaining or educational.

When to See It

Love Child airs on HBO at 9:00 tonight, on July 31 at 11:15 am and 6:00 pm, August 3 at 4:00 om, August 5 at 1:15 pm, and August 16 at 8:30 am. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Feeling Faces Tachometer

An Adoption at the Movies reader who blogs at Parents of Color Seek Newborn to Adopt recently created an emotional tachometer for kids, inspired by a review of Planes: Fire and Rescue. She has lots of great pictures of the craft-in-progress, too. With her kind permission, here is a re-post of her post. Happy crafting!
I read a review of Planes Fire and Rescue at Adoption at the Movies and it gave me the inspiration to create a feeling faces tachometer. If you want to know why please read the review on Adoption at the Movies. If you’d like to view the amazing feeling faces tach, please forge ahead!
These are the materials I used. They are all things that I found around the house. #UpCycle
These are the materials I used. They are all things that I found around the house. #UpCycle
  • Print out of feeling faces tach that I made in Fireworks
  • Cardboard from baby mittens wrapping
  • Old business card
  • Scissors
  • Bronze fastener
  • Elmer’s spray glue
Cut out the tach and glue it to your piece of scrap cardboard.
Cut out the tach and glue it to your piece of scrap cardboard.
Cut out the tach.
Cut out the tach.
Color a long stripe on the business card. You'll use this for the arrow.
Color a long stripe on the business card. You’ll use this for the arrow.
Cut the red stripe off. Cut the two top corners off the top. Viola! An arrow!
Cut the red stripe off. Cut the two top corners off the top. Viola! An arrow!
It would have been great if I would have though to bring my hole-punch earlier.
It would have been great if I would have though to bring my hole-punch earlier.
Place your arrow where you'd like it on the tach and punch a hole.
Place your arrow where you’d like it on the tach and punch a hole.
My tach is happy that this project is complete!
My tach is happy that this project is complete!
Here is the feeling faces tachometer that I made on my computer in case you’d like to make your own.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Girl Like Her Adoption Movie Review

Ann Fessler’s documentary, A Girl Like Her, revisits America in the 50’s and 60’s to explore the experience of single women who became pregnant then. Fessler blends the women’s own stories in their own words with 50’s- and 60’s-era sex education videos. The documentary is uncomfortable to watch. The sex education videos blatantly assign full responsibility for physicality in relationships to women; the women interviewed express that their parents reacted very poorly when they learned of their daughters’ pregnancies. One father called his daughter a whore. One mother “treated it like her own personal tragedy.” One family moved “so no one would know.” One religious leader told a mother that her baby would be “stuck in purgatory” unless she allowed an adoption. Some were forced to choose between relinquishing their baby or being ostracized from their family of origin. Their words are powerful. One explained, “I didn’t give him away. He was taken. He was never meant to be a gift.” Another related, “I felt like I had no choice.” One says, “No matter how many children you have, this emptiness is still there. Trauma attaches itself to you in a way that’s hard to undo.” Some women reported a sense of shame that followed them their whole life; one never even told her husband about the child she had earlier in life. One woman said, “You never get over this.” Fessler’s documentary captures the cruelty that was experienced by many pregnant women in this era, and the pain they experienced. It’s not easy to watch.

 It’s also difficult to see reflections of the approaches that adoption agencies utilized. One clip shares that “only children in good health are offered [for adoption so that they bring] happiness, not burden.” Another professional explains a desire to reserve “brighter children for [mentally] superior families.”

I think it is worth seeing, for prospective adoptive parents, though. There seems to be a widely-held misconception that adoptions have historically been closed and secretive. Some people pursuing adoption do so with a sense of entitlement to a child with no attachment to his or her birthfamily. This film is helpful because it shows where these expectations may have come from.

If you’ve spent time on adoption blogs, you’ve probably read the words of some people who have been hurt by adoption and who are generally quite strongly opposed to it.  Watching A Girl Like Her might be a safe way to understand where they’re coming from.

The film focuses on coercion, pain and loss. There aren’t really any happy stories. It’s not balanced within itself. But it can be part of a balanced film-based education for people pursuing adoption.


This is worth seeing if you’re considering adoption. Please especially think about seeing it if you’ve never considered an open adoption. It’s best-aimed at adults. It will be especially painful (but possibly affirming) viewing for parents who have relinquished children.

Questions for Discussion

What do you imagine about the parents of the child you will adopt (or have already adopted?)

What’s the difference between “finding a family for a child” and “finding a child for a family?”

What’s the difference between confidentiality and secrecy?

Recommended Reading

Open Adoption Blogs