Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Dayveon Adoption Movie Review

Since his brother was killed in 2014, young teenager Dayveon has lived with his sister and her boyfriend. He is loved, but he is longing to belong and to make sense of his brother’s death. The only belonging he has from his brother is his brother’s loaded handgun. Dayveon is jumped into a street gang, and joins them in robberies. He is uncomfortable with the crimes in which he has participated. In one crime, he and one other gang member rob a poker game, and one of the victims is Dayveon’s sister’s boyfriend. Later, the boyfriend confronts Dayveon, affirms that he loves him, and challenges Dayveon’s involvement in the gang. It’s uncertain what Dayveon will choose to do.



The Adoption Connection

Dayveon’s parents are never mentioned. He lives with his sister and her boyfriend. He has one close friend, and has also been jumped into a gang.



Strong Points

Even though Dayveon has entered into a criminal life – and participated in a robbery against him – his sister’s boyfriend makes strong efforts to invest in Dayveon’s life.



Challenges

Language, gang involvement, and violence will push this movie out of the comfort zone for many viewers.


Recommendations

Dayveon is an interesting study of the life of a fictional but very realistic Arkansan teenager. I wouldn’t recommend this for kids, but parents could find it meaningful to notice how the love of a parent could have been formational in Dayveon’s life.











Tuesday, October 10, 2017

My Little Pony: The Movie Adoption Movie Review

The princess ponies of Equestria are preparing for a major festival to celebrate friendship. Princess Twilight Sparkle, perhaps the friendliest pony, is nervously making arrangements for the fetival, which will feature a performance by Sia-voiced Songbird Serenade. Before the festivities can get fully underway, Tempest Shadow arrives and proclaims victory for the Storm King. Tempest Shadow captures all of the princesses with the exception of Twilight Sparkle and a few of her friends. Now, Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy and Spike the Dragon set off in an attempt to find the help they need to rescue their captured friends.

** SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY **

The Adoption Connection

There is no mention of adoption in My Little Pony: The Movie. Some kids may relate to Tempest Shadow, who only turned against the ponies of Equestria when she was shunned by them for having a broken horn. Kids are often mean to each other, and hurt feelings and feelings of rejection can be expressed in negative ways. I was happy to see Twilight Sparkle develop empathy for Tempest; that empathy opened the way for Tempest to rejoin the community of ponies. Tempest also reveals that she hasn’t been called by her real name – which is a much friendlier name which fits with the other Pony names (it’s Fizzlepop Berrytwist, which Pinkie Pie immediately dubs “The most awesome name ever.”



Strong Points

Twilight Sparkle has loyal, supportive friends. Even though she hurts her friends’ feelings, they are there for her. When she is worried about putting together the music festival, they sing supportively, “You’ve got this! We’ve got this together!”

Nearly all of the villains become heroes by the end of the story. We also understand the motivation of many of the characters who initially oppose the ponies; one is trying to pay off a dangerous debt, others have been conscripted into the service of the Storm King, another tries to regain her lost honor. Each has a change of heart.

When Twilight Sparkle hears Tempest’s story of being rejected, she shows great empathy, and expresses, “I’m so sorry you felt so alone.”

Twilight Sparkle reflects on her unkind words towards her friends, and says “Friendship didn’t fail me; I failed friendship.”



Challenges

The Storm King manipulates Tempest, promising to restore her horn in exchange for her work in securing him ultimate power. He intends to deceive and betray her, however.

When Twilight Sparkle and her friends reach the Hippogriffs, they are initially denied help. When Twilight Sparkle tries to steal an item that would help defeat the Storm King, the Queen of the Hippogriffs sends her away and does not intend to help her.


Recommendations

My Little Pony: The Movie is a kid-friendly and surprisingly positive musical adventure. It does not relate directly to adoption, but it does explore fights between friends, loyalty, and feelings of rejection. There’s more interpersonal insight in this film than I expected. It seems like a safe choice for kids ages 4 and up.


Questions for Discussion

Would you have trusted Capper? How could you know whether he was safe to trust?

Why couldn’t Pinkie Pie talk to Twilight Sparkle after Twilight Sparkle hurt her feelings? How long do you think it took Pinkie Pie to forgive Twilight Sparkle?

Have any friends said something that really hurt your feelings? How did you get better?   Has a friend ever had hurt feelings because of something you said? How did that get better?









Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Mully Adoption Movie Review

Charles Mulli was born into poverty in Kenya. After being abandoned by his family, he survived by begging and stealing. In a period of despair, Mulli accepted an invitation to church. There, he was inspired by a preacher’s message that anything is possible with enough hard work. Through hard work, perseverance and inspiration, Charles became a leading businessman in Kenya. He married and had a large family. And then he realized the extent of the needs of the children in his country, and he grasped his responsibility as a prosperous person to do something about it.

Mully tells the story of what Charles has done to help and how he has done it. It’s truly remarkable.
There are some scenes of real violence recorded during politically-charged riots in Kenya which could be scary for some viewers. Some of the people who were helped as children by Mully speak in detail about the abuse they experienced – one girl relates that her father raped her, another shares that when she was very young, her mother prostituted her. Scenes like these also capture the need that Mully saw; they affirm the importance of the actions he took.


Mully (the inspiring film and the amazing man) captures an important aspect of the heart of foster care and adoption.  Mully plays in theaters Thursday, October 5 2017 through Fathom Events prior to its release on DVD. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial Adoption Movie Review (E.T. and Foster Care)

A group of extraterrestrial scientists are exploring a forest in California. To avoid discovery, they hurriedly reboard their spaceship and depart, but they unintentionally leave behind one of their own. The alien left behind goes into hiding, but is discovered by ten-year-old Elliot, who finds him in a shed in his yard. Elliot lives with his mother Mary, teenage brother Michael and five-year-old sister Gertie; his father has recently left the family to be in another relationship, and Mary is still angry and sad about this. Elliot, Michael and Gertie try to hide the alien, who identifies himself as E.T., and caring for her draws them together.

E.T. and Elliot develop a very close, perhaps telesympathetic connection through which Elliot feels E.T.’s feelings, and this often results in Elliot acting erratically. E.T. expresses a desire to contact his people so that he can return home; Elliot and his siblings try to help him do this, but they must race against E.T.’s declining health, and against the government agents who want to examine this newly-discovered alien.


E.T. recently was brought back into theaters by Fathom Events in honor of its 35th anniversary. This week, Fathom Events is showing Mully Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings in theaters throughout the US. Mully is the story of “The world’s largest family,” and it will be reviewed here soon. One of Fathom Events’ next features to revisit the big screen will be The Princess Bride. Find out more here...

** SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY **




The Adoption Connection

Elliot’s family is grieving the departure of their father.

E.T. reminds me of how a child might experience their journey through foster care towards reunification. E.T. has been separated from his family, and he longs to go back to them. Some government officials appear to be obstacles in his way to reunification, and there’s a lot to be accomplished before he can go home.  He lives with a family that takes care of him, helps him, and supports his reunification, and eventually, with their help and with the help of one friendly governmental official, E.T. is able to go back home. He will always remember his time with Elliot’s family, and Elliot will always remember him. 



Strong Points

Although they have had some conflict, Elliot, Mike and Gertie work together very well to help care for E.T.

When Elliot is away overnight, his mother is visibly distressed; she gladly welcomes him back home.



Challenges

There are some moments that could be frightening to young children; police offers have rifles ready to stop Elliot and E.T. from escaping. Some kids could be scared by what appears to be a home invasion by government agents.

E.T. and Elliot both appear to approach death. I imagine many kids will cry at this scene.


Recommendations

E.T.is a classic film. Kids with experience of foster care or adoption might relate to E.T.’s separation from his family, and his eventual return there. There are some scary moments, and some sad moments, but E.T. is overall a magical story filled with love. Some kids may be triggered by the concept of E.T.’s separation from his family or Elliot’s separation from his father, or by the apparent death of E.T.  For other kids, this film will be memorable, and it could be an entryway into conversations about longing to return home while also building trusting relationships with a new family. E.T suggests that even if you live somewhere only temporarily, the relationships can be lifelong.


Questions for Discussion

What did E.T. feel like before Elliot found him? What helped him to feel safe with Elliot?

Do you think E.T. and Elliot will remember each other for a long time?

Elliot and E.T.’s brains and feelings matched each other. Is there anyone whose feelings match yours 
most of the time?

If you could ride a flying bike, where would you go?










Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Lego Ninjago Movie Adoption Movie Review

Ninjago, a city built of and populated by Lego blocks and figures, is constantly under attack by the evil Lord Garmadon. Garmadon’s son, Lloyd Garmadon, is a high school student who is mocked and scorned by his classmates and his community because his absent father poses a constant threat to the city. His peers do not know that Lloyd is a member of the Secret Ninja Force, which regularly defeats Garmadon.



In an attempt to defeat Garmadon, and perhaps fueled by the pain of his father not even remembering his birthday, Lloyd uses a forbidden weapon which endangers the whole of Ninjago by summoning Meowthra. Now, Lloyd, his evil father, and the rest of the Secret Ninja Force, must work together to find an even stronger weapon. Lloyd and the Ninjas intend to use the stronger weapon to restore peace and safety to Ninjago – but can Lord Garmadon be trusted?

** SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY **


The Adoption Connection

There is no mention of adoption, but there are some aspects that could be relevant to people touched by adoption. Lloyd is separated from his father. The whole community views Lloyd’s father as a villain, and they also treat Lloyd unkindly because of who his father is (a popular song has the lyrics, “Boo Lloyd. His dad is bad and so is he.” Lloyd feels continually rejected by his father, who does not remember Lloyd’s birthday. Lloyd’s father hasn’t seen Lloyd since Lloyd was a baby, and does not recognize the teenage Lloyd, cluelessly saying, “my son is bald and has no teeth.” Lloyd’s father initially explains that he left Lloyd because babies aren’t good for anything. Later, the truth comes out; Lloyd’s father explains that he abandoned Lloyd and his mother because he couldn’t change his villainous ways; he offers to have Lloyd work alongside him in villainy, but Lloyd refuses. Lloyd’s father responds in anger by locking him in a collapsing castle. Eventually, Lloyd is able to forgive his father, and his father moves back in with Lloyd and Lloyd’s mother.


Strong Points

Lloyd’s mother continues to encourage him to not be ashamed of his parentage.

Lloyd’s paternal uncle is a positive, encouraging role model to Lloyd.

There is a cute scene when Lord Garmadon teaches Lloyd how to throw.

Lloyd and his father do reconcile. Lloyd expresses, “I forgive you and I’m sorry for when I said I wish you weren’t my father. I didn’t mean it. Instead I wish we didn’t fight all the time.” Lloyd also acknowledges that his mother has always cared or him, and he apologizes for taking his mother for granted.

Lloyd makes an insightful realization, “I connect my family whether we’re together or not.” He also reflects on his father’s villainy, “My dad is bad, but we’re still family.”


Challenges

The film captures that high school kids can be pretty mean to each other. Lloyd’s shame, pain, anger, and sense of loss towards his father could be hard for kids who have a distant or absent father, but could also be good invitations to conversation. Lloyd ultimately reconciles with and forgives his father; this could mirror the wishes of kids who’ve lost contact with their fathers which could be a painful reminder of what has not come true for some kids, but could be a helpful picture of resolution for others.  

Kids who are grieving a sense of abandonment, or who blame themselves for not being with their birthfamilies, may have a hard time with Lord Garmadon’s initial explanation of why he left his son, which basically blames Lloyd for being a baby. At one point, Garmadon asks, “How could I ruin your life? I wasn’t even there!” Lloyd responds, “I wish you weren’t my father.”

When Lloyd’s angered use of the forbidden weapon endangers the city, the other Ninjas seem to turn against him, saying, “We were the only people who didn’t hate you. Now we hate you.”

At one point, it looks like Lloyd and his father will be thrown into a volcano by an angry mob. Later it briefly seems that Lord Garmadon has died.

Even late in the movie, Lloyd’s father attempts to abandon him. I am grateful that they do reconcile by the end of the film.


Recommendations

The Lego Ninjago Movie is most likely to be appreciated by kids and tweens. There are some scenes that could be difficult for kids with abandonment issues or unresolved feelings towards an absent father. For those kids, some scenes could be sad or perhaps even triggering, and although the issues are later resolved pretty well, the scenes that could cause problems come quite a bit earlier in the film – Lord Garmadon’s last attempt at abandoning Lloyd comes after they’ve bonded to some extent, so it seems particularly sinister and painful. For kids who aren’t bothered by these aspects of the film, it is a fun, mostly light-hearted story of someone who makes peace with his parentage, acts bravely, is supported all along by some friends and family, and who ultimately forgives and reconciles with an estranged father. It should be OK for kids ages 6 and up, as long as the concerns I’ve raised don’t push the film outside of your family’s comfort level.  


Questions for Discussion

Whose fault was it that Lord Garmadon wasn’t involved in Lloyd’s life? (This is a good opportunity to affirm to kids that the losses they’ve experienced aren’t their fault.)

Why did Lloyd forgive Lord Garmadon? How did he forgive him? How do you think that will change their relationship?

Who in Lloyd’s family was supportive all along? Who supports you?









Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Secrets and Lies Adoption Movie Review

Middle-aged Cynthia struggles amidst family drama when out of the blue she receives a call about a baby she placed for adoption decades ago. Although she is initially nervous, Cynthia eventually agrees to meet the caller, her birthdaughter, Hortense. Cynthia continues to meet Hortense in secret, and she takes joy in seeing that Hortense is succeeding in life, even though Cynthia herself struggles to make ends meet. Cynthia struggles within herself, wanting her family to know about her newly-found daughter, but also wanting to keep her secret hidden.



The Adoption Connection

** SPOILERS AHEAD **

When she was 15 years old, Cynthia slept with a vacationing American medical student; when she woke up, he was gone. Cynthia decided to place her child for adoption. When Hortense and Cynthia meet, Cynthia has a hard time believing that Hortense could be her daughter, because Cynthia is Caucasian and Hortense is Black. Cynthia initially refuses to tell Hortense who her father is, but ultimately tells her. Cynthia’s daughter Roxanne initially seems to reject Hortense, but later says that she is happy to have her as a half-sister. Cynthia’s brother commends Hortense for seeking out her history. One character struggles with infertility. Hortense did not seek out her birth family until after her adoptive parents had passed away.


Strong Points

This film captures the truth that when we face our pain, we can find healing.

Cynthia overcomes her fear to meet Hortense, and eventually introduces her to her family. The family is understandably shocked, but welcome Hortense. Hortense acts bravely in tracking down her birthfamily.

This is a well-acted, thoughtful British film from 1996; it seems quite forward-thinking in its treatment of openness in adoption.


Challenges

One character suffers from infertility; another character, not knowing this, criticizes her for not providing children for her husband. Even this secret comes to light, which allows the family to respond with kindness and concern.


Recommendations

Secrets and Lies is a film that you might have missed, but it’s very much worth seeing for adoptive parents, adult adoptees, and people considering becoming adoptive parents. It’s a powerful picture of the pain that comes from secrecy, and the healing that can be found when we let trustworthy people know us. Strongly recommended for adults.


Questions for Discussion

Which secrets could have caused the most pain?

Which characters do you think are feeling the most relief by the end of the movie?

Why do you think Hortense chose to seek out her birthmother? Why do you think she waited until after her adoptive parents had passed away?


Which characters do you relate to?
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