Review: 'Instant Family'

Here is my two cents on the new movie, “Instant Family” about fostering to adopt.

My quick and dirty review of it: I loved it and I highly recommend it. Definitely, suggest bringing some tissues with you.

Now, if you choose to keep reading, allow me to step up on a soapbox for a moment.

I was a little nervous going into the see movie because of the chatter leading up to it. Folks shared their concerns with me that the movie would portray children in foster care in a negative light and be another stereotypical movie. After seeing the movie, I want to ease everyone’s worries that it does not do that.

As a former foster youth, who attended the movie with other former foster youth, we pretty much all agreed this movie was incredibly well done. Yes, a few parts were difficult to watch, but it was honest, raw, and really real. It’s a movie that will make you laugh and may make you cry.

The move is about a middle-aged couple who decides they want to take on fostering to adopt. For those of you who are new to the adoption and foster care world, that is where a family will choose to serve as foster parents with the intention of adopting their foster children. However, the children are still in care proceedings so there is a chance that the court will decide that the children can return to their birth family. This plan prevents a child from moving from home to home. It gives kids a little more consistency at an uncertain time.

First, I think it is pertinent people know the writer and director, Sean Anders was a foster parent and is an adoptive father. The movie is based on him and his wife, Beth’s, experience fostering. Not only did Sean have a first-hand experience to foster care and adoption, but he also did his research while writing and directing the movie. He consulted foster youth and experts in the field. He was both, thoughtful and intentional.

Sean wanted the movie to be honest and it is. It is an authentic and hilarious take on what foster families experience. There are some truly raw moments that could inflict some feelings of hurt on either end of the spectrum, but it’s all true and real.

This movie is not sugar coating what fostering looks like. Being a foster parent is hard, but it’s also worth it. And being a foster kid is hard. But this movie celebrates adoption and shows that it’s about redemption, restoration, love, laughter, sacrifice, and it leads to the creation of the most beautiful families with the most unique stories.

I thought the movie struck an incredible balance of the tough and very real moments of 1.) being a kid experiencing foster care and 2.) being a foster parent trying your hardest to be a good parent. While some of the scenes were tough and might be hard to watch, they were always partnered with a hilarious scene to counteract the heaviness.

Foster care is a heavy topic and Sean’s use of humor in the movie was done extremely well. Bravo, Sean.

Now, there are some scenes that folks won’t agree with (You can never please everyone.) Particularly, I think people with an inside view of the child welfare world may be offended by some aspects. For example, during the advanced screening I attended, a man who works in child welfare raised a point of tension he had saying that one part of the movie was “stereotypical.” But, the example he referred to is indeed a very real thing that happens in foster care.

I don’t want to give away parts of the movie because you should see it for yourself. (!!!)

But, my point is, yes, you may disagree with pieces of the movie, but can we please focus on the big picture here.

This movie is taking foster care and putting it at the center stage of Hollywood. It’s starting a conversation about the 437,465, 000 kiddos in foster care. 117,794, 000 of those kiddos who are waiting to be adopted.

And we can do better than that, America. We can do better than letting kids languish in foster care until they age out without a family and are left on their own to figure out life.

So, while you may have all kinds of opinions about the movie and what the writer “should have” or “shouldn’t have” done, I urge you to remember that this is about more than those technicalities.

We have Hollywood stars who are standing up and using their platforms to elevate the fact that almost half a million children are in foster care. This is long overdue. We have Marky Mark going on the biggest talk shows and telling people to step up and foster. Come on, guys. When was the last time a movie did that for the foster care system?

I applaud Paramount Pictures for taking on this movie. I applaud the stars in the movie, like Mark Wahlberg, Octavia Spencer, and Rose Byrne who get hundreds of other offers, but chose to do this movie.

But, let me just say, the real stars, the real everyday stars, are the people who open their homes and their hearts to kids who need it. I applaud you and give you a standing ovation, foster, and adoptive parents.

I applaud Sean Anders for his work on this. I applaud him and his wife, Beth, for stepping up to foster. I applaud the Anders for telling their family’s story in an authentic and candid way to raise awareness about the need for families to be brave and step up to foster and adopt.

It takes a village, people. We can all play a role. You can start today by going to see Instant Family and learning more about foster care.

I can’t wait to hear what you all think of the movie!

- Keri Hope

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