Sunday, July 18, 2010

Film Review:Mother and Child

I finally saw the movie Mother and Child.
And I have a few thoughts about it.

Annette Bening plays a 51-year-old single woman who gave up a baby girl for adoption when she was 14, and she has never recovered from that loss. She frequently writes letters, never sending them, to her daughter. She is bitter and isolated and doesn't want to let anyone into her life. Not even Jimmy Smits.

I would love to hear from you birth moms out there about how this character resonates with you and your experience. To me, Bening's character seems caricatured. She's our imaginary version of a birth mother: a woman who pines after her lost child, unable to think of much else, and who, when said child re-enters her life, suddenly lives in technicolor and becomes happy and satisfied with her life and all is right with the world.

Real reunions, of course, are much more nuanced than this.

Now, on to the adult adoptee character: Naomi Watts plays a beautiful, 37-year-old lawyer who is cold, manipulative, and creepily detached from any kind of emotional intimacy with other people. She seduces inappropriate men (married ones with pregnant wives, ones who are her boss), and casts them off indiscriminately. She has no friends, and has divorced herself from her adoptive family.

Ok, now, is this how the general public thinks of adult adoptees?

Overall, the portrayal of these two members of the adoption constellation seems ham-handed. I assume the director is trying to show us that adoption can cause a lot of grief, and that the secrecy and shame surrounding closed adoptions can compound that grief and wreak havoc on peoples' lives.

Yes. True.

But must we stereotype birth mothers and adult adopted women as unsympathetic, unsavory, super-yucky people? Who is this movie serving?

Your thoughts?

Friday, July 9, 2010


My self-imposed writing retreat has gone well so far. It has been helpful that the weather here has been atrociously hot and humid, so going outside to play has not been much of a temptation. For the whole first week, I took advantage of my overly air conditioned college office, even wearing a sweater for most of the day as I huddled over my computer.

This week I have been less disciplined, but I got enough done to give a draft to a lovely writer friend who stopped by for a visit on her way to England. I'm planning to get back in the saddle next week.

Sometimes I feel ridiculous writing a book while the publishing industry as we know it is imploding, but I have lots of friends who are publishing books as we speak, and I do think that what I have to say about adoption and identity is important. There is still so much resistance to accepting that the adopted person's psyche is different than the non-adopted person's. And I want to bust that resistance.

I started this blog to try to generate a conversation about the issues relevant to adult adoptees, but it's been difficult; adoptees who read it say "Yep, I'm with you," and non-adoptees either disagree or are silent. Mostly.

Anyone want to chime in?