The Great Gilly Hopkins

Directed by Stephen Herek, Produced by David Paterson Adapted from Katherine Paterson’s book “The Great Gilly Hopkins” Lionsgate Films, Gilly Film Production, October 2016, PG, 1 hour, 39 minutes

Based on the book by Katherine Paterson, the new film The Great Gilly Hopkins shares the tale of an 11-year-old girl in the foster care system. Gilly’s life changes the moment she enters the home of Maime Trotter, who is played by Kathy Bates. Mrs. Trotter welcomes Gilly immediately by telling her that “This is your home now, too.” Breaking through the walls that Gilly has put into place is not an easy task, but Mrs. Trotter never gives up. In a new home, attending a new school, Gilly struggles to find her place in her new life, getting into fist fights and continuing to dream about one day being reunited with her mother. Eventually Gilly’s tough outer crust is worn off by Mrs. Trotter’s love and commitment. And just as she makes huge leaps getting settlde into her foster home, Gilly is reconnected with her biological grandmother, upturning her life again. At the end of the movie, Gilly comes to understand the bittersweetness of having many people to love. The Great Gilly Hopkins is a wonderful film with an acclaimed cast includes not only Kathy Bates, but Julia Stiles, Glenn Close, Octavia Spencer and Bill Cobbs.

The film is a perfect depiction of what I wish for every child who enters foster care. Gilly is surrounded by many caring, loving adults who want her to succeed. While the entire film revolves around the foster care experience, it’s not incredibly heavy, but it does touch on important elements such as the challenges of adjusting to new homes and schools. This film may bring up a few tough feelings for kids in care, but the way Gilly is portrayed makes her relatable and may offer an opportunity to discuss how Gilly may be feeling and how that may translate into their own feelings about foster care. This is definitely a film the whole family will enjoy as it shares the importance of hope and portrays foster care honestly. The beauty of the movie is the blending of foster and biological families and I believe most foster families will relate well to the story and experiences and kids in care will see Gilly as a foster care hero. — Reviewed by Kim Phagan-Hansel

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