It’s difficult to convey certain subject matters through the medium of comedy without being insensitive or dismissive but somehow Sean Anders’ Instant Family manages it, with distinction. I don’t remember the last time I cried and laughed in equal parts through a movie but Anders’ approach to the issue of foster care and adoption is both moving and hilariously funny.
Inspired by his own experiences of fostering and later adopting three children with wife Beth, Anders’ screenplay highlights the different stages people go through in entering parenthood through the gates of foster care adoption. In this case, it is Ellie and Pete Wagner, played wonderfully by Rose Byrne and Mark Wahlberg, who have professionally found success in buying up old rundown houses and transforming them into polished and liveable homes for sale. A sly metaphor for the much tougher challenge they are faced with when they decide to try their hands at parenting three foster siblings.
Bringing 15 year old Lizzie and her siblings, Juan and Lita into their home changes so much more than just the couple’s family dynamic; not only must they learn how to be parents to their three adopted children but what that role as “parents” means for their own relationship. Fellow parents will wholly relate to the lessons Pete and Ellie are confronted with, from ‘being on the same page’ with each other as kids attempt to play one parent off against the other, to competing for your children’s affection, because let’s face it, there’s always a favourite parent!
As they tackle the obstacles that come with coexisting with one rebellious teen, her sassy little sister and accident prone brother, Pete and Ellie find themselves laughing one minute and crying with frustration the next. Guided by the wisdom of their social workers Karen and Sharon, the awesomely funny duo that is Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro, and by their fellow foster parents and their own families; Wahlberg and Byrne’s ‘instant family’ might just be made of the right foundations to prevent the whole endeavour from crashing down around them.
I loved loved loved this movie. It captures so well the struggles parents face to be both friend and disciplinarian, to demonstrate love while retaining respect, to try and let go of that part of ourselves consumed with our own well-being in order to open ourselves up fully to the needs and feelings of the humans we’ve been charged to nurture and protect.
Seriously, go see Instant Family when it hits cinemas on 10 January 2019, just don’t forget the tissues and waterproof mascara!
Instant Family, PG
Duration: 118 mins
p.s. Look out for a cameo by one of my favourite actresses towards the end of the movie!!