52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary girls, intense film
I took my 16 year old adopted daughter to see this film in the theatre, thinking it would help her think about her history and identity, and might start a conversation about some difficult topics she must be thinking about. While the movie inspired and moved me, my daughter simply thought it was 'sad' and assured me that she was not that concerned about exploring her...
Published on November 20, 2012 by Vicky Reader
3.0 out of 5 stars Good to see for adoptive parents of Chinese girls
This movie is a good one to see for adoptive parents of Chinese girls. It is a little intense for girls to watch under the age of twelve.
Published 18 months ago by Leslie Burns
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary girls, intense film,
I took my 16 year old adopted daughter to see this film in the theatre, thinking it would help her think about her history and identity, and might start a conversation about some difficult topics she must be thinking about. While the movie inspired and moved me, my daughter simply thought it was 'sad' and assured me that she was not that concerned about exploring her identity as an adoptee. It is possible that what these girls did was just more than she could imagine herself ever doing.
The movie follows four real teenage girls who connect with each other through an on-line community for adoptees from China. The film weaves together several adventures the girls have, showing them meeting and traveling together, often with one of the girls narrating the experience. The two main trips I remember were one to Barcelona where one of the girls participates in a panel discussion on adoption and addresses the very raw topic of abandonment, and a trip to China where another girl, incredibly, locates her birth parents and meets them. Both of these are things that most teenagers could not and would not do. We do see the parents of the girl who finds her birth parents actively engaged, but otherwise, the girls appear to be doing all of this on their own.
The girls in the film are impressive - accomplished, thoughtful, kind, independent, and above all, brave. My overwhelming impression was of pride in the girls, who are seeking out these difficult experiences and sharing their most painful, private feelings with each other and, of course the movie audience.
It is highly unrealistic for a child adopted from a Chinese orphanage to expect that they can just post an advertisement on the wall of their hometown and find their birth parents. That segment is a big focus of the film, so you might need to address that point with your adopted child. Also, in the film, the birth mother at first is reluctant to meet with her daughter, and is somewhat conflicted, although the father is overjoyed. In the end they all have a big family reunion and it comes out that the adopted girl was abandoned because the family was too poor to keep her, and the father was not told until after the fact and might not have agreed with the plan. I am not sure if this makes it more or less tragic. The adoptive parents are shown supporting their daughter through this experience and the outcome is better than if the birth family hadn't reconciled with the adoptee, so overall, it is not as upsetting for your child as it might be.
There is a lot of narrative from the girls about what they are thinking and how they are feeling that could really speak to a more thoughtful teen. I do not recommend showing this movie to a child younger than a mature 14-year old without previewing it first.
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four bright engaging teenage girls talk about what it means to be born in China but raised in America,
The documentary "Somewhere Between" was conceived as almost literally a labor of love. In 2008, the director, Lisa Goldstein Knowlton, and her husband had adopted a baby girl from China, and Knowlton wanted to have some idea of what her daughter would have to experience as she got older. As a veteran film producer (Whale Rider, The Shipping News, Crazy in Alabama) as well as director of documentaries (The World According to Sesame Street and others), it was natural for Knowlton to decide to document what she found out, and in the process be able to one day show her daughter everything she had learned.
In 1979, China, faced with forecasts of severe over-population, implemented a strict one-child policy in an attempt to limit its population growth. Since traditionally Chinese families favored boys over girls, many families wanted their one child to be a boy. The result was large numbers of infant girls being either given up for adoption or simply abandoned. Over the ensuing years some 175,000 children from China - overwhelmingly girls - have been placed in adopted homes in 26 countries. Of these, about 80,000 ended up in the United States. Knowlton picked four of these now-teenage girls as the subjects of her documentary and ended up spending three years following and interviewing them about their lives, particularly their experiences of and thoughts on being "somewhere between" Chinese and American.
The four girls - aged 13 through 15 - whom Knowlton selected to interview and follow proved to be excellent choices for the documentary. All are personable, highly articulate and self-aware, particularly when it comes to the issue of knowing that they belong to two very different cultures. Some of them were in fact the only Chinese person in the communities they grew up in.
Fang "Jenni" Lee, 14, lives in Berkeley, California. Adopted at 5, she speaks Mandarin and has been to China, but observes that "In either country, I know I'm a foreigner." Jenna Cook, 15, lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and is your classic driven over-achiever, a top student at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and coxswain of the junior varsity crew team, a position which she pointedly notes is for someone who "stands alone." Haley Butler, 13, lives in Nashville, Tennessee, plays country pieces like "The Orange Blossom Special" on the fiddle and says one of her ambitions is "to be the first Chinese person to play in the Grand 'Ole Opry". Ann Boccuti, 14, lives in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. We meet their adopted families early in the film, but the focus, quite properly, is on the girls.
(Note: the next three paragraphs may contain some spoilers, so if you're sensitive about such things, I suggest skipping over them.)
In spite of their varied backgrounds growing up in America, the four girls do, as one would expect, have two things in common: a sense of being out of joint (they joke about being "twinkies, bananas, scrambled eggs... white on the inside, yellow on the outside"), and a desire to know more about who they were before they were given up or abandoned. And why. Fang in particular, having been old enough to actually remember when, at 5, she was abandoned on a street corner by her older brother. In one of her trips back to China, she tries to find a connection empirically. Told by some Chinese in the town where she was abandoned that she looks like she's from an ethnic sub-group called the Dai, she tries on Dai clothes and visits villages, looking for faces with features like hers. In a particularly moving sub-plot, during a visit to an orphanage, Fang takes an interest in a girl toddler named Run-Yi whom she sees sitting in a wooden box by herself. Run-Yi, she learns, has cerebral palsy, which given the primitive conditions and limited resources of the orphanage, means a bleak future for the little girl. Fang makes it her mission to change that and manages to get Run-Yi the special help she needs to thrive in spite of her condition, which we see in later visits.
Jenna and Ann go to Europe in a trip sponsored by an organization called Global Girls that brings together Chinese adoptees from all over the world. One particularly interesting scene has a group of these girls sitting around talking, all with Chinese faces but with American, British and Spanish accents.
Inspired by her own Global Girls experiences, Haley also makes trips to China, having decided, in spite of the daunting odds against it, to see if she can find her birth family. In the town where she was left to be adopted, she is told that she looks like the daughter of a man who lives there. She meets the man, who says he believes that she is his daughter who was given up many years ago. It seems too incredible to be true, but gradually they examine what they know, comparing stories, comparing faces (once you meet her older sister, the resemblance is indeed startling) and finally, confirming the truth with a DNA test. The story of how Haley came to be abandoned and the reunion with her birth family is both moving and enlightening in the perspective it gives over how so many girls come to be given up or abandoned, showing how complex and emotionally wrenching these decisions can be.
My only real complaint about the film's structure is that it weaves back and forth between the four girls' individual threads, which made it hard for me to keep their narratives separate and distinct. It also didn't help that two of the girls - "Jenni" and Jenna - had such similar names, though the filmmakers did try to refer to Jenni as Fang as much as they could, even though apparently only her family calls her by her proper name. It would've helped if they made more of an effort up front to establish the individual girls more firmly in our minds before they began moving back and forth between their threads.
That said, though, Somewhere Between does succeed in Knowlton's main purpose - turning the abstract issue of Chinese girls being adopted and growing up in foreign cultures into something personal and intimately accessible, giving us the "insiders" perspective on the experience.
Highly, highly recommended.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Speechless,
I saw this movie last night. The emotions I felt left me speechless for hours. This is a must see film for any parent who has or is considering adoption - especially internationally. I am so proud of the girls who told their stories and honestly gave their perspectives on being adopted from a foreign country. They are articulate, smart, sensitive and very in touch with their feelings. I want my adopted daughter from China to see this film when she is older and asking the tough teenage questions these girls are facing about who they are. I found the reunion with the birth family thought provoking and tragic. My daughter's birth mother has been in my prayers since I made the decision to adopt from China. I was very touched by the birth father's emotions, as I had not really thought about his feelings before. I highly recommend this film. Please be certain that your child is mature enough to handle the tough questions of abandonment and birth family reunions. The content is definately PG-13 or above.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly poignant!,
Saw the movie this past weekend and I cannot possibly give it the acclaim that it deserves! The young women in this movie are articulate, intelligent and their insights are profound. This is a must-have for any family who has adopted from China, and anyone else who is at a crossroads with exploring and finding their identity. Superbly made movie, etc., etc., etc.! The only caution I would give to parents is that you may wish to preview the movie prior to seeing it with your teenager since your child may or may not be emotionally ready or prepared to delve into the subject matter that is presented. Under no circumstances would I take a child under the age of fourteen.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and extremely moving,
I am not an adoptive parent, but I have raised my children among families that have adopted from many different cultures. Right now there are two sisters in my class who were adopted from China, and I wanted to walk a mile in their shoes so I could better understand their perspectives and emotional journeys.
This movie moved me deeply; you don't have to be adopted to have experienced abandonment, betrayal of trust, and a sense of being "different." These are experiences we all have in common, and are the ones that cause the most pain, especially in the teen years. The director gently peels back the veneer of cheerful and grounded American teenager to expose the pain and questioning underneath. Being raised in a loving, happy family with financial security does not negate the pain of being given up or abandoned. There is nothing more painful to a child (even 40 or more years after the fact) than to be labeled "unwanted" in her own mind. However, it was lovely to see the girls grapple with their two realities and start to integrate them and move forward, using their pain to help others.
Several other reviewers recommend against allowing adopted children see this movie before they are 14 years old. I haven't raised adopted children, but I would tend to disagree; I prefer the proactive approach, which has worked well for my own (now grown) children. Difficult subjects and truths about self and family (e.g., mental illness, family members in jail, traumatic events, etc.) are best made part of one's daily life and conversation, not hidden or avoided. I think this movie could and should be shown often beginning with very young children and replayed as they grow, so that there are many natural opportunities through questions and conversations to grow up integrating the two sides of their reality, instead of allowing them to confront their "difference" when they are in their teen years at their most vulnerable. I noticed in the movie that the girl who traveled back to China every year of her life with her mother (to bring assistance to orphanages) seemed the most balanced and integrated.
Parents have the unique power to grant "permission to exist" by acknowledging and rejoicing in the uniqueness of their children and see them as beings separate from themselves; they also have the frightening power to negate their children's existence by abandonment or, even worse, projecting themselves onto their children. These are the children who self-harm, who have not been given permission to exist. This movie is an antidote to such poison...it's an acknowledgement of a sometimes difficult reality that allows the hard questions to be asked, and the hard truths to be grieved and ultimately made useful in the great task of helping one another. Highly recommended for general audiences, not just those with a connection to adoption.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must see movie!,
My husband, adopted daughter (now age 15) and I have seen the movie twice now and cannot wait to have the DVD to share with friends and family. My daughter's story is very similar to Fang as they both were adopted at age 5. This immediately pulled my daughter deeper into the movie and when we discovered the director and three of the girls would be at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago we went. We all had the chance to meet them in the lobby and found everyone to be approachable and warm as they come across in the movie.
Personally, I found the adoption of Run Yi immediately transported me back to the day of our adoption. The nervous pacing in the hotel room, the shell shocked little girl, the tears...all of it came rushing back. When the movie ended I felt like I had been on an intense emotional rollercoaster, yet I couldn't wait to see it again. Tissues are mandatory for this movie.
As an adoptive parent I wondered how my daughter would react to the movie. She was evasive and got a stomach ache before seeing it, no doubt nervous about the topics. I had a feeling the movie would be unsettling, yet healing because she would see she is not alone in her thoughts. I was right. The next day she was a bit moody, but eventually we sat down for a long talk about abandonment and birth parents. She eagerly went for the second viewing and our talk after that was long and much needed. For her this film has helped her process her abandonment and what it means to be her. She is eager to learn Mandarin and wants to do volunteer work over in China. To her Fang and Jenna are role models to look to for inspiration.
I cannot recommend this movie enough, but do be aware that if you are having an adopted child watch this be prepared for some unsettled emotions afterwards.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Must see,
I enjoyed this movie from start to finish, I have watched it 3 times already. The most inspirational part of this movie is the girls, I left feeling so hopeful that my daughter who is only 2 will have an amazing support network in place because of these girls before her. They provided me as a parent amazing insights on how to read between the lines and see more then the surface. I think it covered things that the public never hears about and the adoption community tends to not want to talk about. I did cry from the moment it started to the moment it ended, each time I watched it but it was happy and sad tears. Mostly I am just so lucky that this film exists, thank you!!!
P.S. I also think this is the beginning of a wave of change that could create a much more open China, and for that I am also very grateful to these pioneers.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST SEE TEARJERKER!,
I saw this movie in a theater today and am pre-ordering it! It was a phenomenally well made movie with the stories of the journeys of identity, family and love of some young girls/women adopted from China. Being a mother of three internationally adopted daughters, I could not wait to see it...and now I cannot wait until my own girls are old enough to see it for themselves. I never buy movies, but this one I will watch over and over again.
P.S. Have your tissues ready...it is a tearjerker.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely touching!!,
This review is from: Somewhere Between (Amazon Instant Video)
As a Chinese-American adoptee I can definitely relate to these girls! I loved this film. It really is beautifully played out! ~There are many obstacles in life. But once a while there comes a silver lining~!!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful discussion about identities,
I went to see this film last year, fully expecting it to be an engaging dialogue about how complex Chinese adoptees' identities are. It was that and more. What I didn't expect was how much I would bawl during the film. What an emotional journey! It speaks to everyone, not just adoptees or parents considering adoption. I immigrated with my family to Canada when I was 8 years old, and I struggle daily with identity issues. This film speaks to anyone who's ever had an intercultural experience.
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