5 Movies You Need to See About Adoption

Miki Eala

For many of us, adoption may feel like a far-fetched concept. It may seem daunting–the steps and processes–that will take up a lot of our time. What tends to be forgotten, though, is the warm feeling parents get when finally being able to adopt a child and him/her their own. Luckily for us, we have movies to show both ends of the spectrum of adoption, and can still give us that warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Here are five movies you need to see about adoption:

1. Instant Family

“Make yourself at home, because you are home.”Based on the real-life story of Instant Family’s director, Sean Anders, the movie makes you laugh, cry, feel, and think all throughout. When Pete and Ellie finally decide to start a family in their 40s, they jump into foster care and eventually, adoption. Pete and Ellie have close to zero experience with kids. When they find themselves in an adoption picnic, they are absolutely dumbfounded on starting conversations with kids. After a tough conversation with Lizzy, a rebellious teenage girl, something sparks inside of them. “Lizzie comes with two younger siblings.” Too much to handle? Maybe. But, maybe not. Head first and heart strong, Pete and Ellie are determined to give Lizzy, Juan, and Lita a home. Instant Family is a deeply emotional and immensely touching movie that is not afraid to sketch out the entire adoption process for its audience. From adoption picnics, foster parent training classes, parenting grown children, losing them in more ways than one, and persistently fighting to win them back, the movie breaks your heart, and pieces it back together over and over again.

Last March, ROHEI Foundation had its very own screening of Instant Family. People came, watched, cried, and laughed together to the beauty of the miracle of adoption. To know more about it, and about how you can support this worthwhile cause, click here:

2. The Blind Side

“It’s nice, I never had one before,” Michael says. “What, a room to yourself?” Leigh Anne asks. “A bed.”

Based on the true story of superstar football player Michael Oher, The Blind Side sheds a beautiful light on adoption. One night, the Tuohy family—Leigh Anne, Sean, and kids Collins and SJ—are driving home from a school event. Out in the cold Leigh Anne spots a stocky African-American teenager—Michael Oher—aimlessly walking the streets. After taking him to their massive high-society home for one night, the Tuohy’s family develops an irrevocable love for him. Taking him to buy clothes to his 2-t-shirt wardrobe, putting him in the same school as Collins and SJ, supporting him in every capacity in what became his football career, buying him his dream car, and even taking him to see his biological mother, the Tuohy’s heart for Michael is extended to unimaginable lengths. Coming from a mother who is a drug addict and with no clue of who his father is, Michael Oher had almost completely gone haywire. Who knows where he would have gone, who he would have become (or not become), and what opportunities he would have missed, if not for the Tuohy family. The movie shows what “aging out” of foster care can horrifically do. On the other end of the spectrum, The Blind Side also brilliantly depicts how adoption and foster care changes lives in the best ways possible. One night in their home turns into two, and then three, and then into weeks, months and eventually, into a lifetime.

3. Annie

(Photo by Steve Sands/Getty Images)

Exhilarating, frustrating, and heart-warming. Three simple words that explain why you need to see Annie. At just 4 years old, little Annie was found outside a restaurant and eventually ended up in the cruel hands of Miss Hannigan, her foster mom. After a series of events, Annie finds herself in the city hall in hopes of finding her birth parents. Little did she know what being there that day would get her into. On her way home, Mr. Stacks, a wealthy entrepreneur campaigning for office just so happens to save Annie from a car. Right place, right time. Eventually, he takes her under his wings. The catch? He does it initially for publicity. The in-between of the movie is for you to experience yourselves. One thing I can tell you is that it is raw, yet completely hopeful. Throughout the course of the movie there are many times that yes, Annie hurts. However, more importantly, she heals. She heals not just because of her self-imposed resilience and optimism, but also because of the unconditional love that Mr. Stacks gave her.

4. Kung Fu Panda 2

The first Kung Fu Panda movie merely implies that Po, the big fat panda, is adopted. Po lives with his father, Mr. Ping, a goose, who owns a noodle shop where Po helps out. Po shockingly gets chosen to be the Dragon Warrior and alongside the “Furious Five,” fights in battle for peace. The second movie, though similar, has one major difference: it gracefully tackles the adoption story of Po. There was more to his story than being left in a box outside his father’s noodle shop. Kung Fu Panda 2 illustrates that before being able to defeat an external force in combat, Po needed to find inner peace. In the midst of punches, kicks, trainings, and battles, the movie also presents itself to be emotionally loaded. Kung Fu Panda 2 depicts adoption as a saving grace for babies who have been left behind for whatever reason. Equally as important, it shows how what matters is most is the present. The movie turned into a trilogy when Kung Fu Panda 3 came out, and Po’s biological father, Li, came into his life. Though this brought Mr. Ping into a little crisis, he beautifully says to Li, “I was worried you’d steal Po from me […] but I realized that having you in Po’s life doesn’t mean less for me. It means more for Po.”

5. Juno

The internal and external struggles that a mother faces in the process of giving up her baby is not something that is given much attention. Thankfully, the bittersweet movie Juno gives viewers a peak into this scene. Juno, a 16-year-old junior in high school gets pregnant with her best friend, Paulie one night. From the get-go, it is clear that she is not mature enough to raise a child. She doesn’t feel that way, and neither does anyone around her. Throughout the movie, Juno gives a painful, yet humorous look into Juno’s life. The conflicts then commence—how does she tell her parents? Will she abort the baby or not? Who will be the best parents to raise her baby? Are she and Paulie going to be a couple after this? How does she veer away from being seen as just someone who got pregnant and wants to give up her baby? Though the situation that Juno got herself into is not something she ever imagined, it is an experience that she wouldn’t trade off for anything. As they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Juno manages to squeeze every lemon out of the nine months she has to make lemonade for another day. And when she gives birth, her mother says, “someday you’ll be back here on your terms,” giving hope to and for a future not far from what the present is.  

From the most painful moments to the most joyous ones, the ones that make us laugh, and the ones that make us cry, these movies all have one underlying ability: to make us feel every emotion there is on the spectrum. Just the way adoption does. So go ahead, give these movies a chance and hopefully, give adoption one too.

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