Instant Family

Written and directed by Sean Anders

Stumbling into the world of foster care adoption, Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) initially hoped to take in one young child but unexpectedly find themselves the foster parents of three siblings, including a rebellious 15-year-old girl (Isabela Moner).

Inspired by writer/director Sean Anders’ own story of adopting from the foster-adoption system,  “Instant Family” illustrates real challenges faced by children and families through a comedic lens.

“Instant Family” presents difficult conversations, alongside cheesy, hilarious moments that remind us that daily life is a rollercoaster of events and emotions — and even tough situations can have levity. The hardest conversation to watch was when Pete and Ellie were facing a particularly tough week with their new kids and candidly discussed giving them back to the agency. They expressed how people would understand and see them as the victims because it can be so hard to raise “these kinds” of kids but that they would also miss being viewed as heroes. The scene was cringe-inducing but so honest. It is vulnerable to lay your inside-thought-monsters bare and then, as was done in the scene, acknowledge that you don’t mean any of it but you needed to say it aloud. Caution to parents that this scene may stir a lot of feelings and need conversations post-movie.

The film does a nice job of addressing other common issues within foster adoption including children coming from trauma, white savior complex and reunification with biological families. Overall, “Instant Family” is an uplifting story that demonstrates the need for more caregivers in a growing system of children in care. Kin care is not really addressed but that does not detract from the actual facts and figures that the film presented of the need.

The theater was filled with people who have lived experience, and hearing their laughs and seeing their tears made it clear the film was resonating with those who feel close to the story. In a time where we say that representation matters, the movie does a solid job of representing some real stories of foster adoption, although not all.

— Reviewed by Victoria Rocha

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