“Instant Family” – Movie Review

Review by Betty Ann Streeter, MSW, RSW, ADV.DIP.SW of Milestones & Transitions

Informed by the author/director’s experience of being an adoptive parent and the experience of a young woman who had spent time in foster care in the US,  the full length  movie “ Instant Family “ rings true to life.  As a description of the early stages of the foster/adoption placement of 3 siblings  of different ages, the movie got it so right! The sensitivities of the foster/adoptive parents from how they dealt with their feelings about not being able to become parents by birth, to their embrace of the role of foster/adoptive parents, and to their need for acceptance from family and support from community, were entirely credible.  Who among us could not identify with the mother’s hurt  when the younger girl called her husband “Daddy” and her joy when the boy said “ good night , Mommy”.  And are there foster/adoptive parents having as their first placement a sibling group of 3 who have’nt, at one time or another, secretly grieved their comfortable life prior to placement?

The behaviour of each of the 3 children was seen to be an age appropriate expression of the complex  trauma experienced by each child at different stages of development.  15 year old Lizzie demonstrated so clearly, by her behaviour and her words, her need to express her intense and complex feelings at not being able to return to her birth mother and to grieve before she could begin to accept her new parents and progress along the process of attachment to them.

The author tried to address stereotypes about parties to an adoption and the comment about how “normal” the birth mother appeared was much appreciated.

How about another  full length movie  following up on Lizzie’s poignant demonstration of how important  the birth family can be to an adoptee  and  how, although youth or  lifestyle issues and the challenges presented by illness or addiction can get in the way of a person’s  parenting ability at some  point in their life, they are human beings who  can, and usually do, return to a healthier state and they continue to have a place in the family system created by adoption?

This is a significant contribution to the adoption community and a  must see movie for anybody considering adopting an older child or sibling group and for those supporting them.

The movie “Instant Family”  opened in theatres on November 16, 2018