Movies and Telvision Series

Instant Family- Movie Review

Saturday Nights are Movie Nights and this week I watched Instant Family.

The movie directed by Sean Sanders is loosely based on his experience as a foster parent to three kids. It is a family dramedy that pictures  Peter and Elle Wagner’s journey from being a carefree couple who enjoyed date nights to foster parents of three siblings, 15-year-old Lizzy 10-year-old Juan, and 6 years old Lita.

The Story

Peter and Elle never considered having children as they were busily up-scaling their life.  They love challenges and a snide observation from Elle’s sister that they will never have kids, is where the story begins.

Being challenged, Elle and Peter decide to go for adoption and after the foster training, bring home three children whose mother is a drug addict. All that training did not prepare them for what was to come.

Lita’s potato chip addiction, Juan’s carelessness which results in him either destroying stuff or getting injured, and Lizzy who hates the system and the whole world, in general, are just a few.

The foster support group led by Karen and Sharon met regularly to share their experiences and wisdom.

When things started working out for the couple, the siblings’ mother comes into the picture. She is released from jail, and is out of substance abuse, and wants her children back. Supervised visits with the mother are reluctantly obliged by the younger siblings, whereas Lizzy looks forward to going back to her mother. 

An incident involving the assault of Lizzy’s 22-year-old, pedophile, school Janitor boyfriend, results in Peter and Elle being apprehended by the police,  a day before the family court hearing. Lizzy submits a statement to the Judge listing all such incidents involving judgmental errors by the Wagners, which contributes to the court’s decision in returning the children’s custody to their mother.

The last evening at the Wagner home is spent in Lizzy apologizing to Peter and Elle for her statement. The younger kids are tearful and want to stay with their foster mom and dad.

To Lizzy’s dismay, her mother doesn’t turn up the next day and a heartbroken Lizzy runs away. Peter and Elle follow her and finally Elle and Peter get to say that, from not knowing why they wanted to adopt, the children have brought them a long way and changed their lives.

Four months later, the family attends a new court hearing, where the judge finalizes Pete and Ellie’s adoption of Lizzy, Juan, and Lita. They all pose for a picture, joined by their families and fellow foster families.

Why it is a Great Watch

1. It doesn’t sugarcoat the bitter facts of life. It gives a realistic picture of what to expect as foster parents. At one point, Peter and Elle feel that the children are ungrateful irrespective of whatever they do for them.  Lizzy doesn’t mince her words when she says “You’re just another white lady who wants to adopt charity orphans to make you feel good about yourself!”.

2.  It uses humour to slide through tough situations. The foster care support meeting is a hoot where the parents share their struggles and the friendly banter cloaks their issues in humour.

3.  The learning process for both parents and the children is pictured lovingly. It is slow and filled with moments, tender, funny, and scary.

4. It has some fantastic acting. Even it has a cameo role from legend Joan Cusack which saved the climax from being too emotional. The comical timing would give you a moment to brush off your tears while you smile.

Where it Fell Short

1.The movie is expected to expose the rawness of the foster care system. It could succeed from the viewpoint of a financially sound foster family. But what if the foster parents are not rich like the Wagners?

2. The role of real parents and the innumerable reasons for children ending up in foster care are given very little screen time.

It will strum your heartstrings for a mournful melody first, and then will sweep you off your feet with a delightful peppy number.

So go for it.

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