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"Somewhere Between": Flubbing the Adoption Issue 

Wednesday, Sep 19 2012

As the documentary equivalent of a group character study, Somewhere Between isn't as sharply focused as you might hope. Director Linda Goldstein Knowlton (The World According to Sesame Street) never delves far enough into her subjects' stories for Somewhere Between to feel more nuanced than, say, a good commercial for international child-adoption services. The film's depiction of how a group of four Chinese girls adopted by surrogate American families self-identifies is largely reliant on pat, unenlightening interviews, and much of Knowlton's footage is arranged in such a way that her subjects raise questions but never fully consider them, especially on the vital topic of the alienation that these four orphans — who have had no contact with their birth parents — can't help but feel for their white families and friends. Sometimes, it's unclear what some footage in the film is supposed to signify. What are we supposed to think when we see that the surrogate parents of Jenna, one of the film's four subjects, have a bumper sticker that has the letters "b" and "r" in the word "abortion" crossed out and replaced respectively with a "d" and a "p?" Or when Jenna is teased by her friends about her ethnicity, and she nervously jokes with them that she knows that "you're not sorry!" In too many scenes, interviewees make loaded statements that Knowlton doesn't do enough to explore. As it is, it's hard to know what these teens are thinking beyond the fact that they're frustrated but aren't able to express their frustration as well as they might like to.

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Simon Abrams


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