The Adoption Film

Of the thousands of movies that I’ve seen, it’s not until one or two come along that I realize how much subject matter can affect certain viewers. I remember reading about Twin Peaks and some of the viewer commentary David Lynch received about the subject of incest, and was struck by the notion that in certain cases, aesthetic appeal falls far to the wayside when a personalized subject hits home.

Mother and Child is one of those movies that did it to me. Immediately, I perceived the Hollywood tactic of using a beautiful actress to embody the role of “psychologically tortured protagonist,” but it wasn’t something I let myself dwell on. The language of the subtitles is what kept my focus. The thing about certain A-list actors, however, is that sometimes, with the right direction, they can fulfill the accuracy of a real life situation. In this case, I watched Naomi’s subtle body language and facial expressions, only to become moderately absorbed in the notion that her character was spiraling out of control. Elizabeth is a taut woman with her act together, so much so that the imperfections of her personality produce cracks at the seams.

Unlike other movies, where I analyze structure for the purposes of comparing the devices with my own works of fiction, I studied Elizabeth’s words and behavior to identify anything that might correspond with my personal experience. I appreciated the inevitable, even confounding question that arose, replete with the correct facial expression.

A mystery lurks within the life of everyone who has ever been given up for adoption, one that is full of negative emotions. The situation is not one that needs to be glorified, and falls into the category of which many declare, “Everyone has problems,” but the situation is, contrarily and undoubtedly unique. It would be nice if stories like this could all be wrapped up in the Dickensian manner, with the warm family Christmas and the wealthy benefactor endowing denouement with nuggets of gold. The sad fact is that the mystery involved with the nature of adoption is filled with resentment, the embodiment of a sophisticated, socially structured manipulation of life in which, in many cases, said life has to be harder than it could have been; especially when the adoptee is adopted by miserable parents. When adoptees confront ego and grow strong in the knowledge of having been abandoned at birth, life can be just as fine as anyone else’s; but even in these cases, a nagging notion will always lie at the seat of the soul, the bewildering wonderment of self-questioning, “Is there something about me that others aren’t telling me, something so bad not even a mother could love?” Of course adoptees come to learn of the myriad reasons why women give their children up for adoption, but the inner questioning, it never really goes away.

Unfortunately for human existence, the tradition of adoption has an evil Siamese twin called abortion, where October Baby attempts to knock out two birds with one stone. Hannah is the product of a botched abortion, thus born prematurely then given up for adoption. Whether the timeline between these two events could really happen seems questionable, and that the outcome would result in a baby turning into a model for television all the more unlikely. 

But realism aside, Hannah goes through same ordeal all adoptees go through: she wants to know who she is. Unfortunately, as I played the game of studying behavior, I was instead clocked over the head with plot device. Hannah gains an edge that allows her to find her mother without her knowing it. I haven’t read enough forums or adoption literature to know how often this actually happens, but for an adoptee to roam around their mother-turned-lawyer’s office before a confrontation, in real life this would be quite an inexplicable, unpredictable event. For a real life adoptee watching Hannah get to do it is insulting. The movie is crammed with this unrealistic nonsense, but it wasn’t until it progressed that I caught on to the ulterior motive. It’s not really about adoption…

…it’s about abortion. After a few Christian innuendos and a reference or two about Jesus, Hannah heads to a church to clear her head out, and who better to help do that?

Now we have a girl who’s found her mother through a chance encounter with a woman who gave up her job at an abortion clinic, who’s been through the wringer of knowing she was both, aborted and given up for adoption, and the “christening” moment of the movie is when she discusses life with a Catholic priest. And as anyone can guess, he has all the answers.

I have to admit, they suckered me into this one, because I read the movie jacket and was curious to know how the story would pan out. They didn’t get me all the way, at least, since I sat at my desk with the headphones on, fast-forwarding through all the chick-flickish scenes and the sickly music, yet as I realized what I was being drawn into, I realized it wasn’t even a chick-flick, it was a pro-life, Catholic propaganda film. That Hannah declares she’s a Baptist, and that the movie also stars the infamously Christian, John Schneider, the movie makers succeed at making a proposal of Catholic/Protestant unity. The intentions are clear, however, for both liberal Christians and staunch Catholics, through the close up weepy crying and contemptuous arguing, that abortion isn’t good for anyone, and that you, as you view the pain and hardship involved, should get to church before you make everyone’s life a disaster.

One psychological message that October Baby does manage to convey is the prospect of resolution. After Hannah throws the whole ordeal in her mother’s face, ascending into the seat of her moral high-horse, she becomes capable of moving forward. For the adoptee who gets stuck with the mother who never wants to be found, such as the likes of those who were born in Arkansas during the sixties, no such relief is to be found. However much success is met, problems overcome, or even the life of continual hardship and inner-struggle, lack of resolution is a permanent mental blotch, a cognitive imp of the mind that will not, for any god or psychiatrist, go away.

In spite of the glorious beauty models sitting in for the millions of ugly men (and/or women) who’ve been adopted and are in just as must confusion as their fellow adoptees, and in spite of being blindsided by the Christian right and their movie-making prowess, either film offers a bit of thought-provoking substance for any male or female human being on the verge of delving into the situation of sex, birth control, and the miraculous event of producing a human life.

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