Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Juno Adoption Movie Guide



One Autumn evening, high schoolers Juno MacGuff and Paulie Bleaker have sex. They’ve been friends for a long time, and have had some romantic feelings towards each other. This is the only sexual experience for either of them, and it seems to happen on a whim. Very shortly thereafter, Juno learns that she is pregnant. This well-received 2006 film highlights Juno’s process in deciding how to handle her pregnancy. She considers having an abortion but changes her mind while in the clinic waiting room. Then, she and a friend look for adoptive parents by searching through advertisements in local publications. Juno eventually tells her parents about her situation and, with their support, she is guided through her pregnancy. Juno confers with Paulie, who affirms that he will support any choice that Juno makes. She chooses to place their child with an adoptive family.






The Adoption Connection

Juno’s thought process leading into adoption, and then from there through adoption, is highlighted throughout the film. She initially considers having “this baby and giving it to someone who needs it.” She is attracted by some applicants, and repelled by others – who she perceives as desperate.

Strong Points

This film is one of my favorite adoption-related films. It introduces so many real-life crises, and does so in a way that is both optimistic and realistic. Juno has to decide whether to carry her pregnancy to term, then she has to decide when and how to tell people, she tells her parents and receives a mixed but supportive reaction from them. She has mixed and inconsistent feelings towards the adoptive parents that she chooses and eventually learns that they have great challenges in their lives.  The adoptive mother is portrayed as anxious but hopeful, and yet, everyone works together.

When Juno does give birth, her mother is with her and assures her, “Someday you’ll be back here on your terms.”

There is beauty in how well this film captures the thoughts and emotions of so many people touched by this one adoption.

Even though Juno has decided to have a closed adoption, the adoptive mother keeps a memento of Juno on display in the baby’s room.


Challenges

Juno chooses not to see her baby. This could be challenging for some viewers.

Juno receives negative feedback from some in her community, but is supported by those closest to her.

There is so much “real life” in this film. Juno’s father confides to his wife, “I’m not ready to be a pop-pop.” She responds, “You’re not going to be a pop-pop. Someone else is going to get a blessing from Jesus out of this garbage dump [of a situation.]”  When Vanessa, the prospective adoptive mother, meets Juno, she asks “how far along are you?” Juno responds that she is a Junior. Vanessa awkwardly clarifies that she was asking about the pregnancy – this reminds me that sometimes, pregnant women considering adoption feel that they are viewed not as individuals, but only as sources of babies. Vanessa later pressures Juno to say “how sure you are? 80%? 90%?” this is uncomfortable even for me.  Juno also makes what might be considered an insensitive faux pas; when Vanessa says “I think pregnancy is beautiful,” Juno responds, “You’re lucky it’s not you.” This hurts Vanessa, who has struggled with infertility. I could see how any of these scenes could stir painful emotions for viewers – whether adoptees, adoptive parents, or birth parents. But I also appreciate how honest the film is in exploring these aspects of adoption, and I value that Juno and Vanessa are able to work together in spite of being imperfect people.

Weak Points

One thing I don’t like about the film – when Juno expresses that she does not want to have any involvement with the baby after the adoption, the response of the adoptive family appears to be one of relief, and the lawyer quickly cements the fact that “we all agree – a traditional closed adoption.”   Also, there’s a particularly creepy scene where the prospective adoptive father hits on Juno. **Spoiler Alert – Juno turns him down, but he still leaves Vanessa**



Recommendation

Juno is a beautifully insightful and also quite entertaining film, and belongs on a very short list of the best adoption films out there. The subject matter would probably make the film best for teens and adults. This is a good pick for adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents for the insight it gives into the experience of being a pregnant teen. It’s a good movie for folks, touched by adoption, who want to understand the perspectives and experiences of others who have been touched by adoption.

Questions

Why did Juno pick Mark and Vanessa?

Why did Juno stick with Vanessa?

How do you feel about how Juno’s family responded to her?

Why did Juno choose a closed adoption?   Do you imagine that it will be opened up in the future?





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8 comments:

  1. I genuinely liked this movie, despite some of its missteps. I'd love to see a sequel - what happens to Juno 5, 10, 18 years after she placed the baby? How does the child feel about his adoption? What was Vanessa's experience like? Did Mark ever realize he was being an idiot, beg forgiveness, and coach soccer? It would be interesting to find out.

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    1. Hey Robyn! I really liked this one, too. And I love the idea of a sequel - I almost feel like it needs to happen!

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  2. I think it's interesting that so many people liked this film. I very much dislike it. There are SO many problems. Let's just begin with one attorney representing both Juno and the adoptive parents which is completely unethical and a conflict of interest. I also think that the way the father of the child is completely left out of all real discussion about the decision to place the child for adoption is wrong and I would hope that anyone working with Juno (in the best case scenario she would be receiving some sort of counseling and preparation for this) would include more with the father of the baby especially in helping to choose the adoptive parents. This film reinforces that placing a child for adoption is only the expecting woman's concern.

    I have many more subtle critiques of the film but these two big ones really stand out to me.

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    1. Hi JaeRan. Thanks so much for your comment. You know, I never even realized that the adoptive parents' lawyer was representing Juno. I see it now, and that is very unethical. There was one (too short, and over-too-quickly) scene where Juno did ask him about what to do with the pregnancy. He seemed surprised and overwhelmed, and quickly said that Juno should do whatever she wanted. I'm thinking that his response may have come from a place of being startled and overwhelmed rather than coming from a genuinely considered position. It would have been a better film if it had incorporated him and his perspective more thoroughly. I would very much value knowing the other critiques you have of the film. Thanks for your insight!

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  3. Agree with Jae Ran.
    I found this film to be highly problematic and feel that ultimately, it serves to reinforce many stereotypes of adoption without confronting real issues.

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    1. Hi Aaryn - thanks for your perspective and for commenting. As much as I found good in the film, I certainly see that it has problems, and that it left many really important issues largely untouched. What are some films you'd recommend that have done a more balanced / less stereotyped job?

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  4. I find your critique to match what I think about it. It oversimplifies it all and I, too, did not notice the one lawyer for both parties involved. I liked the comment about her thinking some HAPs appear to be desperate and I love that she didn't use an agency. As a single adoptive mom, that fact that Juno continued her plan with Vanessa after all that happened brought me to hysteric tears as I watched while in the middle of my first match (which ultimately did not happen but of whom I am guardian if her parents cannot take care of her) and as I watched later to remind myself not to give up hope. I even watched with the mother from my failed match.

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    1. Hi Heather - thanks so much for sharing this. I'm glad Juno has been a powerful and helpful film for you. It's interesting, how different films can impact people so differently. I think that's why conversations like these are so important.

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