Thursday, July 3, 2014

Earth to Echo Foster Care & Adoption Movie Review

Tuck, Munch, and Alex are junior-high friends who have big plans for their last night together. Their neighborhood is about to be evacuated for the construction of a bypass. The loss of their neighborhood is significant to each boy, because each of them feels somewhat displaced. Tuck is overshadowed by his older brother and has also moved to Nevada from New York. Munch doesn’t make friends very easily. Alex is a foster kid, who Tuck says “has been moved all over.” All three of them are about to be moved away from their homes, and away from each other. Recently, their cell phones have been acting strange, displaying unusual designs. The boys decode the designs as a map, and decide to spend their last night together trying to discover what is causing the phones to act strange. They follow the map into the desert, and one character admits that they are scared. While exploring, they see a faint light and discover Echo, a scared, tiny alien who just wants to go home.

How’s This Relevant to Foster Care and Adoption?
Alex is a foster kid. He’s been moved around from home to home. He fears abandonment – and even gets into a fight with Tuck when Tuck abandons him – and is also brave, loyal, and good.  A true sadness of foster care shows up when Alex is getting ready to move. Tuck enters his room and remarks that his room “looks how it looked before you packed – all of your stuff fits in one box.” He then asks Alex jokingly but insensitively, “What are you, a drifter?”
The impending loss shakes Tuck; he explains, “You feel like your own person with your own friends, and then something like this comes along and you have no power to stop it because you’re just a kid.” Kids who have been in foster care may relate to a feeling of being disempowered.
Alex is a positive movie portrayal of a kid in foster care.
Echo is lost and wants to get home. The boys also christen Echo with his name; they aren’t sure what his original name is.

Alex is a great example of a positive character in foster care. He has strength and weaknesses, and the experiences he has had in foster care both give him vulnerabilities and newfound strengths. Alex is not portrayed as helpless or as heroic. He is a good kid who happens to be in foster care. He fears abandonment because of what he has experienced, but he is loyal, brave, forgiving, and dependable. Alex is also the first of the boys to reach out and connect with Echo. The joy on Alex’s face when he realizes that Echo is trusting him and communicating with him is priceless. Alex teaches Echo how to use slow breathing breathing to self-soothe himself while he’s scared. Alex also refuses to leave Echo behind when Echo is in danger of being caught; he explains, “I know how it feels to be left. I’m not leaving him. I know how it feels. We’re all he’s got.” At one point, the boys are faced with a decision – to take a huge risk and allow Echo to return home, or to play it safe. Alex is the first one to move towards sending Echo home. As Echo prepares to leave, Alex tells him, “I don’t really know how to say goodbye, so I’m not going to. I’m your friend. Even when you think I’ve forgotten.”
Echo is cute, scared, and dependent. All three boys are very nurturing towards him.

One character is insensitive to Alex. He jokingly asks, “Why do your foster parents need you if they already have a baby? One cries, one listens to Indy Rock.” Alex deflects the joke and laughingly tells his friend to shut up. This scene might hurt some viewers’ feelings, but Alex’s response is a positive one. The same character leaves Alex behind while running from a security guard. Later, he tells Alex, “You’re always freaking out if someone’s gonna leave you behind.” Alex fights the boy. They later make up.
One boy fears for his life, and makes a tearful video farewell to his friends. Although he survives, the scene might be too powerful for some viewers who have had painful experiences of loss or peril. Echo is placed on a dissection table.
Juvenile boys make some inappropriate jokes in real life, and in film. One boy jokes about sleeping in the bed of another boy’s mother.
The boys do enter a home without the owner’s permission.

Weak Points
Parents in this film are not shown as sources of strength; the boys lie to them, deceive them, and never get caught. The only adults that the boys have regular interaction with are villains. The adults intend to prevent Echo from returning home because he is “too valuable.”

Tuck expresses the film’s message right before the end credits – that kids can do anything; that they’re not powerless. But what I see as an even more pronounced message is that foster kids, while having real issues, challenges, losses and sadness, can be the bravest, most loyal, most forgiving, and most dependable of their peers, and they can turn their experiences outward into kindness to help others in similar situations. There are some sad and scary moments in this film, and so it should be pre-screened by parents of kids under 7, or parents of kids who have unresolved grief about loss or peril. However, this is a very positive film – especially, I think, positive for kids in foster care. I give it a high recommendation for foster families with kids between the ages of 8-14.
Questions for Discussion
Which of the kids – Tuck, Alex, Munch, or Emma – do you like the best? Why?

Why was each boy sad to be moving from their community?

Why did Tuck and Alex fight?

What in your life do you wish you could change? What would be the first thing you would do to make it happen?

Do you think Alex, Tuck, and Munch will stay friends even though they’ve moved apart?

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