MOVIES: Fiction - Adoption
Casa de los Babys
Directed by John Sayles
My rating:

John Sayles brings observant compassion and calm insight to Casa de los Babys. Dispensing with traditional storytelling to focus instead on the turbulent emotions surrounding the adoption of babies by American women in an unnamed South American country, Sayles takes an unobtrusive approach to their dilemmas, listening like an understanding friend to these hopeful women, who are either bound or separated by their disparate personalities. Sayles also covers both sides of the adoption equation by including a Latina mother, certain that her baby will enjoy a better life with adoptive American parents, but still struggling with the anguish of her sacrifice. Casa de los Babys is a sensitive film about a sensitive subject, allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions.

The King of Masks
Directed by Tian-Ming Wu
My rating:

On the streets of Szechuan Province in the 1930s, the aged King of Masks, sole living master of "change-face" opera, delights and frightens audiences with the secret art of lightning-quick mask-shifting. His fondest wish is to pass on his skill to a male heir before he dies. Famous female impersonator Liang Sao Lang craves knowledge of the king's secret technique, offering to relieve the old man's poverty by taking him into his opera troupe. The king declines: what sort of heir would this half-female creature make? Instead, he buys an orphan on the black market, joyously showing him off as his grandson and heir.

Kolya Directed by Jan Sverák

This charming Czech drama uses the backdrop of the Russian military occupation in Prague for its funny, sad, and ultimately delightful story of a 55-year-old man's friendship with a 5-year-old boy. It doesn't exactly start out as friendship: Louka is a cellist who lost his symphony job after writing a sarcastic remark on an official form, and although he's struggling financially he still enjoys the company of several young women who find him irresistibly sexy. The last thing he needs is a surrogate child, but that's what he gets when young Kolya is abandoned by his mother, a Russian woman Louka had agreed to marry so she could avoid being sent back to Russia.

Losing Isaiah
Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal

Jessica Lange is a social worker who falls for an abandoned newborn and breaks all the rules by bringing him home. Halle Berry is the homeless druggie who dumped the baby. We watch Berry painfully pull herself up out of the gutter and make a life for herself. After Lange and her amiable spouse have formed strong family ties with this difficult child, they find themselves fighting to keep him when Berry decides she wants Isaiah back.

The Italian
Directed by Andrei Kravchuk

The Italian, a film that aims to expose the overcrowded, impoverished conditions in Soviet state-run orphanages, is a chilling portrayal of contemporary Russian life. Director Andrei Kravchuk conveys, from inside orphanage walls, the sense of responsibility that employees feel to the children, and how desperate economic straits drive these same dedicated employees to sell their kids for a few Euros.

Beshkempir: The Adopted Son
Directed by Aktan Abdykalykov

Beshkempir is an exquisitely composed and photographed child-to-man tale of a Kyrgyz villager. Beshkempir is just like any other kid - playing in mud, getting into trouble, experiencing the first pangs of sexuality - until a fight with his best friend leads to the revelation that he was adopted. What sounds like a clichi takes on striking resonance here in a mostly pre-industrial society where the daily rituals are so earth-based that Beshkempir's request for money to see a movie comes across as an anachronism. Shot in gorgeous black and white, the film explodes into occasional bursts of color.

Where Eskimos Live
Directed by Tomasz Wiszniewski

In a gripping tale of moral and spiritual redemption, a heartless crook picks up a street-wise orphan to sell in a black market adoption ring. Posing as a relief worker in war-torn Bosnia, the callous Sharkey (Bob Hoskins) befriends Vlado, a tough 9-year-old who mistakes the man for his meal-ticket out of the shattered region. As this unlikely pair struggles to escape a country where evil flourishes at every turn, a crook becomes a hero and a discarded child finds a future.