Posts Tagged ‘glutinous cutesy sentimentality’

All right, time for a bit of an innovation in these parts – exciting, n’est-ce pas? Anyway. You know me, I’ll usually rock up to watch just about anything, but I have to say that the moment I saw the trailer for Sean Anders’ Instant Family I was seized by the absolute conviction that if I watched it I would probably end up vomiting up my stomach lining. I’m not saying that my recent trip to the USA was solely motivated by the desire to avoid this film, but I’m not saying it wasn’t, either. Anyway, my friend the thriller-loving Olinka decided she had the intestinal fortitude to face this particular excursion into (most likely) glutinous sentimentality and has agreed to write about it for your education and entertainment…

I hardly ever write reviews of films I’ve seen. I am an English language teacher, and I teach people how to write reviews as part of their international exam preparation, so that makes me more of a review reader, and a humble pointer out of grammar mistakes, than a review writer. However, since our ringleader, Andy, was on vacation in the USA, and missed our regular Tuesday trip to the cinema, I feel it is my duty to show a little initiative and fill in the gap in his regular blog routine. [A bit late since I’ve been back for a few days now, but better than never I suppose – A]

The choice of film wasn’t hard to make for me and my friend Con-Con, because, let’s face it, what do two hard-working girls want on a no boys evening out? A good giggle, a bit of popcorn [More like a barrel of popcorn knowing you two – A] and a family comedy. We chose Instant Family simply because we wanted to have a good light-hearted time.

So, here we are. The film tells the story of Pete (Mark Wahlberg), and his wife, Ellie (Rose Byrne) [Sigh – A], who, having decided to foster a child, eventually end up with three siblings of Mexican origin: bright, sassy Lizzy (Isabela Moner), shy Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and cute, bossy Lita (Julianna Gamiz). The idea of instantly outdoing their friends who have only one child, and not having to go through sleepless nights and dirty nappies, seems quite appealing at first. But, as you can probably guess, things go off the rails almost straight away.

Being not dissimilar to any new parent – naïve and full of false expectations – the couple soon have to face harsh reality. The initial period of settling in turns out to be an exhausting whirl of tantrums, tears and regular trips to A&E. Add in loads of ruined pastel cream furniture. [Olinka’s eye for interior décor will be well-known to anyone who read the review of Everybody Knows A] Being a new mum myself, I guess I am the perfect target audience for this film, but I couldn’t help smiling at how familiar the whole thing seemed – the helplessness, the chaos, not knowing the right answer, not knowing how to react at times. What becomes clear, I guess, is that, whether or not a child is adopted, when we become parents we never know who our children really are, and one whole life is just not enough time to find out. [This is getting a bit too profound for my liking, do some bad puns – A]

As soon as things settle down a bit, the family gets struck by a new blow. The kids’ biological mother appears in their lives and expresses the wish to take them home. And here for me lies the key question at the heart of the film: What is the love of a child really about? I was reminded of the Biblical story of King Solomon’s Judgement. If you remember, King Solomon has to rule between two women both claiming to be the mother of a child. Solomon suggests cutting the baby in two, so that each woman might receive half. This judgement is designed to reveal the women’s true feelings towards the child. While the non-mother approves of this proposal, the actual mother begs that the child be committed to the care of her rival. The family in this film has a similar decision to make. Will they let go of their loved ones for the sake of their well-being?

Exploring these issues in a gentle, ironic but not mawkish way, the film definitely won me over and brought a tear to my eye (not just me, by the way!). It’s a funny, honest take on the highs and lows of the fostering process, and it is full of insightful set-pieces. Take, for example, adoption picnics, on which potential parents and children meet up for a picnic, strained and stressful experiences which, as the couple in the film rightly point out, resemble a car boot sale of children.

The film overall does an important job in exploring and popularising the idea of fostering, and it busts a couple of myths about adoption, such as, biology makes a family, adopted children won’t fit in, or adoptive parents won’t be able to truly love them. As we see, none of these myths are true, and this is what’s important at the end of the day.

As we were leaving the cinema, my friend commented, ‘I’d like to adopt now!’ and I, to my surprise, answered, “Me too!’ All of which proves my point. This film makes you think this way. It’s message is very simple: be a good person and do something good for other people. I left the cinema with a smile on my face, and a light step. What’s wrong with that? [Hmmm – A]

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