Saturday, September 5, 2009

Movie with Background Theme of Adoption

A few weeks ago I watched the movie Gigantic starring Paul Dano as Brian, a single 28-year-old mattress salesman who has always dreamed of adopting a baby from China. He’s going through the process of getting approved, and at one point reveals to his maybe-girlfriend Harriet (Zooey Deschanel from Elf and the music group She & Him) that it’s difficult for him because he’s not an ideal candidate.

“I’m 28 and single, not married in my thirties.”

This is fairly true to life. Though it’s easier for single people to adopt these days, it’s still not an ideal placement for obvious reasons. I’ve also considered of adopting after I turn 30 regardless of whether I’m married. Then I thought about all that would entail and changed my mind. Hopefully family and adoption will come my way differently.

When I read the description of the movie before watching, I was under the impression that Brian stopped his adoption quest when he started to fall in love with Harriet, and I was all ready to get riled up about this on behalf of the orphan. But it didn’t exactly happen that way. He does indeed fall, clumsily, in love with Harriet, though I’m not sure why—she’s a total train wreck/ditz and constantly wears a deer-in-headlights look on her face. Perhaps he wants to save her? Then, does he want to adopt the girl from China because he wants to save her too? Viewers never really know.

A good bit into the film we learn from Brian’s father that Brian decided he wanted to adopt from China at age 8. My question is, why? What made that so attractive, especially to a young kid? I wish this would have been explored a bit more, because this crucial detail would really flesh out Brian’s character, as he is a fairly reserved person in general. If he saw some advertisement or heard a story of the sad state of Chinese orphanages in the 1990s and made a commitment to do his part, then that says a lot about who he is. If he just thought that was how babies came about, that makes sense too. Or maybe he decided that he’d been single for so long and getting so close to 30 that there was no point in waiting any longer (that’s my suspicion).

As with many indy films, the overall character development is pretty good otherwise. The characters are quirky but real, hopelessly human enough to fall totally in love with in less than 2 hours.

SPOILER! At the end Brian does bring home an infant. In a powerful scene he comes around the corner from his kitchen leading a tiny dark-haired girl as she tentatively steps in front. You get the impression she has just learned to walk. I found it significant that he allows her to walk instead of carrying her. This makes me think he did not adopt her in order to have a token Asian child, and that perhaps he’ll be a good dad.

Some rules for watching adoption-themed movies with your kids, from an AAC handout.

1. Know your child's developmental level. Be attuned to their reactions (and yours). Be prepared to answer questions and deal with possible grief responses.

2. Give your child permission to react.

3. After the movie, address any issues/questions that arise. Acknowledge feelings. Don't shush or scold.

4. Share with other adoptive and foster parents when you see an adoption-themed movie. Look for the lessons inside the "fluff."

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