Monday, August 13, 2018

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again - Adoption Movie Review


A year after her mother’s death, Sophie intends to re-open her mother’s hotel. Sophie’s mother, Donna, was never sure who Sophie’s father was, but all three possible fathers took an active role in Sophie’s life, and continue to serve as supportive fathers to her even now that she is grown. As Sophie deals with the stress of reopening the hotel, we see interspersed scenes of Donna’s life when she was Sophie’s age, settling on the island, dreaming of opening the hotel, and dealing with an unexpected and largely unsupported pregnancy.

**SPOILER ALERT**** By the end of the film, Sophie learns that she is pregnant – and although this helps her feel closer to her mother, she realizes that, unlike her mother, she is supported by a boyfriend and her three fathers, and she will not have to do this alone. ***END SPOILER***





The Adoption Connection

Some people, including people touched by adoption, may relate to Sophie’s situation; several people have entered her life as supportive parental figures, but she is not certain who her biological father is. However, all of her father figures have learned to work together and have become friends in support of Sophie. This is an ideal outcome, and a similar outcome, although more specific to adoption (and more likely to appeal to kids), was presented in Kung Fu Panda 3.


Strong Points

I really like how supportive Sophie’s three dads are of her, and how they have generally learned to treat each other as family as well; they are united by their care for Sophie. This models a very positive outcome for any blended family, whether formed by remarriage or adoption.  


Challenges

This film doesn’t seem likely to appeal to a young audience, but it doesn’t seem likely to pose many challenges for a mainstream adult audience.


Recommendations

While this isn’t an adoption film, adoptive parents could enjoy watching it, paying attention to the positive relationship between the three dads, and reflecting on what a healthy, open relationship could look like with their children’s birth family.


Questions for Discussion

What do you think made it possible for Sophie’s dads to function so well together?

How important is language or terminology for Sophie in referring to her dads?

Which songs did you like best?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Christopher Robin Adoption Movie Review


Christopher Robin last left the Hundred Acre Woods as a preteenager; although he knew that his life would require him to move on from his cherished memories there with Pooh and his other friends, he promised that he would never forget them. Decades later, Christopher is a manager of a luggage company; he feels the pressure of knowing that he may have to lay off several of his staff if he cannot find a way to reduce costs, and feeling the pinch of this pressure, he decides not to accompany his wife and young daughter on a vacation. His family is hurt by his absence, feeling that he consistently puts work in front of them. Still, he sends them off to the cottage he knew as a child while he stays home alone – and he would have stayed home alone, had not a friend from his past come to visit. Pooh has discovered that all of his friends are missing, and he has come to ask Christopher for help finding them. Christopher intends to take Pooh back to the Hundred Acre Woods, and he must determine how he will prioritize the competing demands on his time.  

** SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY **


 

The Adoption Connection

There is no mention of adoption in the film. Some of the film does center on Christopher’s unavailability to his daughter, which could be particularly sad for kids who have experienced neglect. 

Some could interpret Christopher as developing into a father figure for Pooh and the other friends from the Hundred Acre Wood.

Christopher was forced to mature quickly when his father died. A young Christopher is told, “You’re the man of the house now.”


Strong Points

Christopher Robin struck me as a very endearing film. I think the live-action-ish stuffed animals reminded me of the feel of Ernest and Celestine, another favorite.

By the end of the film, Christopher has understood the importance of family. That realization also helps him have insight into the work problem he is facing, but his work success is almost incidental – the true victory is that he tells his daughter that nothing is more important to him than she is.

The value of recreation and relaxation, even for grown-ups, can be conveyed by a very wise statement, “Doing nothing often leads to the very best something.” Christopher’s wife challenges him to focus on the present, instead of putting all of his efforts into a future life; she reminds him, “Your life is happening now.”

Christopher does get in touch with his imagination, and comes through as a great friend to Pooh and the others in the Hundred Acre Woods.

Pooh is perpetually accepting of Christopher; he is perfectly understanding and good-natured.

Pooh confides to Christopher that he has been lost, but Christopher responds, “But I found you, didn’t I?”

Christopher’s friends learn about his daughter, Madeline, and ask him if a Madeline is more important than all of the papers he worries about for work. He acknowledges that she is.

Madeline confides in Christopher that she doesn’t want to be sent away to boarding school, and he agrees that she never has to leave.


Challenges

Christopher seems to have forgotten his dear friends in the Hundred Acre Woods, even though he promised that he never would forget them. Christopher acknowledges that he “let Pooh go” the same way that an employer lays off employees. He yells at Pooh, and then Pooh walks off, saying that Christopher “should let me go – for efficiency.” This could be difficult for children who fear that they may be forgotten by their first families. Christopher does shortly reconcile with Pooh. These children could also be saddened by Christopher’s daughter longing to know her father, and wondering when he would be home – and even when he comes home, he is largely unattuned to her.

Some children could have a hard time watching a scene where it’s implied that Christopher’s father 
dies.


Recommendations

Christopher Robin is an endearing film with a worthwhile message. It isn’t scary, although there are some moments that could be particularly sad for young viewers if they come too close to the child’s own history. Parents should consider how their children’s experience of neglect and parental loss might interplay with the film; for general audiences it seems suitable to all ages, but most likely to appeal to adults and kids ages 11 and up.
 

Questions for Discussion

How in touch are you with your own childhood? What are some of your favorite childhood memories?

What are (or were) some of your favorite childhood games? Toys? Stuffed animals?

How can you prioritize “today”?

Do your children feel that they’re more important than your job and your possessions? If not, how could you communicate that to them in a way they’ll understand?


Other Ideas


Saturday, August 4, 2018

Teen Titans Go to the Movies Adoption Movie Review


Robin, Beast Boy, Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire are collectively the Teen Titans. They belong to the superhero universe, but they’re more sidekicks than heroes – something that the superheroes often rub in.  The Teen Titans confront a villain, but become distracted in explaining their identities, allowing the villain to escape. The Teen Titans want to legitimize their status as superheroes, and decide that they need to have a movie made about them; in order to do this, they are willing to travel through time to ensure that no other superheroes exist – when this doesn’t work out, they decide instead that they need to have an arch-nemesis. Thankfully (?) one arises in Slade. The Titans must work to stop Slade’s intention of brainwashing the world.



 The Adoption Connection

There is no real adoption connection in the plot of the story; however, there are some scenes that could surprise viewers. Most notably, Batman’s origins are briefly shown. Batman became a hero due to his parents being murdered in a dark alley. In an attempt to stop Batman from becoming a superhero, the Teen Titans travel back in time and direct Batman’s parents away from that alley; they live, but Bruce Wayne never becomes Batman. When the Titans realize that this has caused the present-day world to be overrun by villains, they travel back in time again, and this time, shove Batman’s parents off-camera into a dark alley, where we hear the gunshots that kill them. The Teen Titans also cause another aquatic superhero to die, but later go back again and correct it.

In a scene that seems very disjointed from the rest of the film, at the very end of the movie, Robin pops on screen and says, “Kids, ask your parents where babies come from.” And then the credits roll.

The time-travel scenes could lead some kids to think about how their lives would have been different had the tragedies that shaped their life – and perhaps necessitated their adoptions – been avoided.


Strong Points

When Robin is discouraged, his friends try to cheer him up by helping him see that he truly is a hero. The film does capture the value of friends.


Challenges

In addition to the more significant challenges which are covered in the “adoption connection” section, the film has a lot of toilet humor. Batman’s parents being forcibly shoved into the alley where they are murdered is probably the most concerning scene; Robin’s film-ending quip, “Kids, ask your parents where babies come from” could also be somewhat bracing or complicated for some adoptive families if they are unprepared. It’s an important discussion to have, but it’s one that requires some thought, and Robin’s hurried play-it-for-a-laugh comment isn’t probably the right bridge into this conversation.


Recommendation

Teen Titans Go To The Movies was silly, and funny at points, but seems to be geared towards a fairly young demographic. Lots of kids in the theater laughed during toilet jokes, including one scene that had also been featured in the trailer which centered around a very lengthy bout of flatulent sounds. I think it is the youth of the demographic that concerns me for audiences touched by adoption or parental loss, mostly because of the scene involving Batman’s parents. The Teen Titans are almost cavalier in shoving Batman’s parents to their death, and although in the context of the movie they’re setting the world right, it could be surprising and painful for kids who have lost – or who have fears of losing – their parents. The fact that gunshots are heard signifying their murder could also be hard for some young viewers, especially those who have experienced violence. It’s possible that these scenes won’t be triggering to your kids, but I feel they’re risky. Because of them, at least for families touched by adoption, foster care, or trauma, it feels like a safer bet to leave this one to kids 13 and up.


Questions for Discussion

What changes in his thinking did Robin need to make in order to become content?

Given a choice, do you think Superman and Batman would choose to erase the traumas that they experienced?

Who was your favorite of the Teen Titans?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Hotel Transylvania 3 Adoption Movie Review


In the late 1800’s, Abraham Van Helsing tried several times to rid the worlds of monsters, but he failed. In the present day, monsters live peacefully among themselves, and they spend much of their relaxation time at Hotel Transylvania, which is operated by Dracula. Dracula’s daughter Mavis convinces her father to take a family vacation, and so Dracula goes on vacation with his daughter, son-in-law, grandson, father, and a host of friends. Together, they board the cruise ship Legacy – but unbeknownst to them, the ship is captained by Val Helsing’s great-granddaughter – and Van Helsing himself is aboard.


** SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY **






The Adoption Connection

I didn’t observe an adoption connection in the film. Dracula has been lonely since being widowed, and though he wants to find love, his adult daughter has to process her feelings about that.


Strong Points

Dracula is supported by friends and family, and obviously cares for his family, even though he is lonely.

Mavis acknowledges that she has never thought of her father being with anyone besides her mother, but says that she wants him to be happy. A character has an admirable goal (the phrasing of which could also be applied to adoption,) “We honor the past, [and] we make our own future.”  


Challenges
This may seem like quite a stretch, but a young viewer could leave the film understanding that a person will immediately know, on sight, who they should marry, and that that destiny can’t be stopped, even if the other person refuses or tries to hurt you. Dracula’s love interest does try to kill him several times.


Recommendations

Hotel Transylvania 3 is a fun, fast movie that should appeal to most kids; it may scare younger kids, but kids ages 9 and up should be able to enjoy this one, unless they are scared by monsters or by Erica’s efforts to kill Dracula.


Questions for Discussion

Do you think Dracula’s family will be able to trust Erica?

What would help Mavis feel comfortable with her dad getting married again?

What music makes you want to dance?


Other Ideas



Sunday, July 22, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp Adoption Movie Review


Decades ago, Janet van Dyne shrunk to sub-molecular size to disable a nuclear weapon. She was trapped in the quantum realm. Hank Pym believed that Janet died, and raised their daughter, Hope, as a single parent. When Ant-Man has a dream about Janet, Hank and Hope begin to believe that Janet may be alive. Hope assumes her mother’s former superhero identity as the Wasp, and along with the conscripted services of Ant-Man, she and her father try to save Janet. Meanwhile, Ant-Man is on house arrest for previous acts of heroism which nonetheless violated a law, and his efforts to save Janet jeopardize his otherwise-soon-coming release. The technology that they hope to use to save Janet would also bring healing to Ava, who tries to steal it; it is also pursued by others who value it for the price it would bring. The heroes must try to accomplish the impossible while being challenged by multiple adversaries.  

** SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY **




The Adoption Connection

Ant-Man enjoys spending time with his daughter, and she is excited for when they’ll be able to spend time together outside of his home, once his house arrest is completed. Ant-Man tries to maintain a positive relationship with his daughter’s mother and her new boyfriend.

Hank and Hope try to rescue Janet’s mother after believing her to be permanently lost throughout all of Hope’s life. When Hope was young, she was taught that her mother “saved countless lives knowing that [the cost of it would be] that she’d be gone forever.”

Ava’s parents died tragically.
 

Strong Points

Ava is assisted in her survival efforts by a scientist, but he puts limits on the tactics she can use in her attempt to survive; she intends to kidnap a young girl, but the scientist says he will stop helping her if she does that.

Janet understands Ava’s pain, and shows her compassion.


Challenges

Some aspects of the story could be frightening or sad for younger children or children who have lost parents.

Several characters unexpectedly disintegrate.


Recommendations

Ant-Man and the Wasp is engaging. Some scenes, and themes of parental loss and parents in danger of arrest, could be hard for some viewers, but it seems likely to be fine for – and most appealing to – kids ages 11 and up.


Questions for Discussion

What right does Ava have to try to get the technology she needs to survive? Are there limits on what she should be allowed to do in her efforts?

How do you think Hope felt when she was told that her mother went away forever to save other people?

When Ant-Man told his daughter that he doesn’t know how to help The Wasp without hurting his daughter, what did he mean? Why did his daughter tell him to help The Wasp?

What do you think  it would be like to go sub-atomic?


Other Ideas



Tuesday, July 17, 2018

For A Better Life - documentary short review (spoilers)


(Spoilers ahead)

As a young boy in Tunisia, Fekri Kram was saved by a French tourist who prevented a shopkeeper from cutting off Fekri’s hand after Fekri had stolen bread. The tourist then followed Fekri home – and his life changed for the worst. Fekri’s mother sold him to the tourist in hopes of giving him a better life, but the life he experienced was horrific. Fekri was sexually abused and physically brutalized by the woman, and he came near death before he was finally rescued from her. Even in foster care, Fekri’s life was difficult; a suicide attempt led him to a residential treatment center, where after nearly a decade, he found healing, and was finally able to forgive his mother.



In this powerfully-narrated, animated documentary short (10-minute) film from Yasmin Mistry, Fekri shares his story. Foster and adoption agencies could consider incorporating this film as part of their training curriculum, and, for people considering becoming foster or adoptive parents, Fekri’s vulnerable sharing of his own life experiences can be simultaneously heartbreaking and inspiring. This one is recommended for adults.

As you watch it, imagine what life experiences your kids may have had. How can you help them feel safe talking to you about them? How might their life experiences show up in their behaviors? What would be the most helpful parental responses in situations where a child’s troubling behavior is reflective of the abuse they’ve previously experienced?

To find out more about this film, check out www.fostercarefilm.com/forabetterlife


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