Tuesday, April 4, 2017
The Great Gilly Hopkins Adoption Movie Review
11-year-old Gilly Hopkins has torn through several foster homes in Maryland. She’s recently come to the foster home of Mrs. Trotter, who also cares for W.E., a young boy who speaks very rarely. Mrs. Trotter also looks after Mr. Randolph, her elderly, blind neighbor. Gilly has no relationship with her mother, who lives in far-off California, but a postcard from her mother has her believing that her mother will come to get her soon. Gilly writes a letter to her mother, fabricating some complaints about her foster home. The letter leads to some unexpected happenings.
(SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY)
Gilly’s mother forwards the letter to Gilly’s grandmother – who until this point did not know that her estranged daughter had had a child. Gilly’s grandmother goes to Gilly’s foster home, sees it in a state of temporary disrepair, assumes that it is an unsavory environment, and sets about trying to get custody of Gilly. This also threatens Mrs. Trotter’s ability to continue as a foster parent, which troubles her because she cares deeply for W.E. Eventually, Gilly admits to her social worker that the allegations in her letter were lies. Mrs. Trotter is able to continue fostering, but Gilly is brought to her grandmother’s home. Gilly’s grandmother is kind and means well, but Gilly misses the Trotter home, which was the first place she felt like she belonged. Gilly’s mother finally visits, and Gilly is disillusioned when her mother seems disinterested in her. Gilly runs away, and returns to the Trotter home. Mrs. Trotter welcomes her, lets her know that she’ll always have a home with her, but also sends her to live with her grandmother. Sometime later, Gilly and her grandmother share a meal with the Trotter home, and Gilly and Mrs. Trotter exchange letters; she’ll have them as ongoing supports in her life as she continues to adjust to life with her loving grandmother.
The Adoption Connection
Gilly has been in foster care for much of her life. Although she feels very self-sufficient, she is in danger of going to a teen facility; her social worker warns her that if she burns out of this home, she’ll be sent to a group home. Mrs. Trotter is optimistic that things will work out, and she isn’t shaken by Gilly’s façade of toughness. Mrs. Trotter does push back when Gilly tries to bully W.E., but she doesn’t hold a grudge against Gilly; her protectiveness and care extends to Gilly as well.
Meanwhile, Gilly has created a narrative for herself that says she doesn’t need anyone – except the mother that abandoned her. She pushes away a girl who would be her friend, and picks fights with boys at school. She also steals money from her blind neighbor, and enlists the unwitting help of young W.E. to accomplish it. In spite of this, Gilly isn’t a bad kid, and Mrs. Trotter continues to care for her.
Gilly has idealized expectations of her mother, and although she’s disappointed by her mother, her grandmother learns about her and provides a home for her. Even after being placed with family, Gilly maintains a relationship with the Trotters, who have become like family to her as well.
Gilly is cared for – and influenced for good – by her foster parent, her teacher, her neighbor, and her grandmother.
Gilly’s grandmother helps maintain Gilly’s positive connection with Mrs. Trotter, Mr. Randolph and W.E.; she has bought a computer for Gilly to use to keep in contact with her friends, and even shares a holiday meal at the Trotter home. Mrs. Trotter works to encourage Gilly to bond to her grandmother; this is a very collaborative, healthy, open post-foster relationship.
Gilly is able to thrive in spite of spending years in the foster care system, and in spite of being deeply disappointed when she finally got to meet her mother.
Mrs. Trotter doesn’t give up on Gilly, even when Gilly’s behaviors are troubling. She doesn’t ignore the difficult behaviors, either, but she finds a healthy middle ground. With her consistency, Mrs. Trotter got through Gilly’s tough exterior and was able to help her connect and thrive.
Challenges (SPOILERS AHEAD)
Gilly tricks W.E. into stealing money from a neighbor. Gilly is a bully to some kids at school.
Gilly’s mother appears only marginally interested in Gilly, but she does care enough about Gilly to tell her mother that Gilly exists and needs help. It’s sad to realize that Gilly’s grandmother didn’t even know that Gilly existed for the first several years of Gilly’s life, and as soon as she learned about Gilly, she set off to find her.
There’s a balance to The Great Gilly Hopkins; Gilly wants to belong, but doesn’t want to be hurt. When her grandmother takes her in, she wants to claim Gilly, but also wants Gilly to stay connected to her friends. Mrs. Trotter tells Gilly that she’ll always have a home with her, but also encourages her to get to know her grandmother.
The Great Gilly Hopkins beautifully portrays a healthy, open, post-foster care relationship between a foster family and a reunified extended natural family. This one seems like an excellent choice for foster and adoptive parents, prospective foster parents, and teens. It gets a high recommendation from Adoption at the Movies. Themes of rejection and disappointment might make it hard for younger kids, but it is a charming movie that could be good for kids ages 10 and up.
Questions for Discussion
Are there any people from previous homes that would be good for you to keep in touch with?
Why was Gilly so angry? How could she use her anger for good?
How do you think Gilly’s grandmother felt when she learned that she had a granddaughter? How do you think Gilly felt when she unexpectedly met her grandmother for the first time?
How did Mrs. Trotter get past Gilly’s façade of toughness? Was it worth it?
What kids are you willing to open your home to?
In what ways will Gilly be helped by maintaining connections with the Trotter home? How can you tell it will be a good thing for her? What helped her grandmother allow that ongoing relationship?
Mrs. Trotter said that life is tough, but that tough isn’t the same thing as bad. What do you think?