Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pan Adoption Movie Review

A tearful mother leaves her infant son on the steps of an orphanage. It is a dreary night in pre-World-War Two London. As she leaves, she puts a necklace around him, which features a pan flute charm. As she leaves, she says, “I love you, my son, my Peter.” She leaves a letter with him, and walks away into the night.

Twelve years later, Peter is still in the orphanage. Although the nuns who run the orphanage are cruel and selfish, Peter has kept his hopes up, and waits for the day that his mother will come back to him. 
(*SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY, but worth reading if you’re considering taking your kids.*)

Peter’s mom does not come back for him. Instead, one of the nuns sells Peter and all the other boys to a band of pirates, led by Blackbeard, who intend to use the boys for slave labor in faraway mines. Peter learns that he is related to some of the enemies of those pirates, who believe that Peter will be able to help. Peter only agrees to do so in the hopes of finding his mother (Big Spoiler but important to know --  he does not find her. She has already been killed by Blackbeard. He only finds a memory of her.)

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The Adoption Connection

There’s a lot here, and it’s not good. Peter’s mother speaks lovingly to him, but does abandon him on the street in a dark night, and he falls into the care of cruel people. (Spoilers ahead) He perpetually waits and hopes to see his mother again, but basically does not. He finds the letter that she wrote for him after searching through locked and forbidden storage, which definitely is relevant to adoption, but once he finds the letter from his mother, a nun takes it away and rips it up in front of his face, telling Peter that he is not special, that his mother will not come for him, and that in fact, he was abandoned by someone who already has forgotten that Peter exists. Even after this, Peter remains hopeful that he will find his mother, and although many adults use his hope to manipulate him into doing their will, he only finds a memory of his mother. He never does find her because she has already been killed by Blackbeard, who boasts truthfully to Peter about killing her. It’s pretty awful.

Peter makes friends with a man whose mother left him behind. The man says that he doesn’t waste tears on someone who doesn’t miss him. Peter questions that, suggesting that maybe the man’s mother does miss him.

Strong Points

Peter does get some version of his birth family’s history told to him.

There’s some camaraderie between Peter and other boys in his similar situation.

When Peter (somewhat) communicates with his mother, she affirms “You have my heart.”

Peter speaks out a true sentiment of many adoptees, “I love you mom, so much. I’m not sure how you can miss someone you’ve never met, but I love you and miss you every day, and (I’ve dreamed of meeting you) my whole life.”


Peter’s mother explains the abandonment, “What I’ve done, I’ve done because I love you. I long for the day I can come back and explain everything to you. Don’t doubt me, don’t doubt yourself. I promise that you will see me again in this world or another.” However, she did abandon him in the dark. Peter’s strong hope to be reunified with his mother is only partially fulfilled, and the lasting flavors are of disappointment, loss, and cruelty.

Peter makes friends, of sorts, with two adults. Both try to manipulate him. One tells him outright, “I’m not your friend. I don’t care about you. I don’t have your back.” One, when confronted with the manipulation, explains basically that being an adult means that you lie sometimes. Another explains, “If we told you the truth, you’d have walked away…” In dejection, Peter throws away the last shred of his mother’s letter.

Both of Peter’s parents are dead.

One character affirms that Peter’s mother would have been proud of him, but another refutes that., saying “Mom would be very disappointed, wouldn’t she?”

One character explains that home isn’t where you come from, it’s where you make it. Although some adoptive families might latch on to that phrase, in the film, it’s given to Peter by someone who’s trying to manipulate him.

Weak Points

This film has, quite possibly, the worst orphanage I’ve seen in a movie. The orphanage sells the boys as slaves. The lead nun hides Peter’s birth records (a letter from his mother), and when he finds it, she destroys it in front of his face, telling him “Every little orphan believes he’s special. You’re not special. Just a little creature, abandoned by a feckless creature who has forgotten you exist.” Then she punishes him further by injuring him physically. This nun is worse than Despicable Me’s Miss Hattie. 

Another nun tells Peter that he’s lucky to get any food at all. The nuns almost mock the thought of having regard for the boys’ safety.

Peter is abandoned by his mother at the beginning of the film.

There’s a scene of child abduction. Scary men snatch boys right out of their beds and take them away. A nun kicks Peter into his abductor’s grasp.  One of Peter’s kidnappers laughs at Peter’s hope of seeing his mother.

A man kills a child on-screen by sending the child plummeting to his death. Mercifully we don’t see 
the impact.

Blackbeard holds public executions. The crowd calls for peter’s death.

Blackbeard boasts to Peter, “You’ll never find your mother, Peter. I killed her myself. Now I’ll kill you.”


This isn’t really a kids’ movie. Peter is able to express the strong feelings of his heart with regard to his mother, which is positive. However, there are so many concerning aspects (child abduction, child abandonment, child abuse, manipulation and lies regarding a child’s birth history, and a general letdown of hope) that this one is hard to recommend. It’s being critically panned, too, so this is probably a safe one to skip. Maybe parents of teenagers could watch it with their 15-and-up teens as a way to talk about feelings of longing, loss, and grief, but it’s going to be pretty rough for most kids younger than that.

Questions for Discussion

How can you deal with it when you really hope for something, but don’t get it?

When a child has been lied to by an adult, how can they learn to trust others? How can they know when they are safe?

If you could say anything to a loved one who you’ve never met, what would it be?


  1. Thank you so much for this review! We were going to see it this weekend, but I might hold off on this for now until my son is a bit older.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Kelly. I was surprised how much this one touched on adoption issues. Hotel Transylvania 2 (and maybe Goosebumps) seem better, and those reviews are on the site too :)

  3. Thank you for this site. Just flipped on Pan on HBO to watch with my nearly 7 y.o. (private adoption). She burst into tears just minitea in while I made a snack so I hit pause and ran here to see where the story was headed and if I shold turn it off. Which I did. Now I know to come here first!!

  4. Thank you for this site. Just flipped on Pan on HBO to watch with my nearly 7 y.o. (private adoption). She burst into tears just minitea in while I made a snack so I hit pause and ran here to see where the story was headed and if I shold turn it off. Which I did. Now I know to come here first!!

    1. Hi Julie - thanks for commenting and for letting me know how the site was helpful. Pan wasn't so great, and it got poor reviews critically, so it was probably an OK movie to skip. There are better ones out there!


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