Instant Family has some hidden gems

Heather Adams, journalist and AOK board member, not only got a sneak peek of Instant Family – a new movie about the foster care experience – but also got to chat with the writer and director. Read more to hear her take!

Have plans to go see Instant Family this weekend? Maybe you’re waiting until the holidays. Maybe you’ve already seen it at one of the many screenings for families around the country (that’s what I did).

Either way, I guarantee you probably missed some hidden, behind-the-scenes aspects that makes this movie really important.

I’m not going to say this movie is perfect. It’s not. There has been a lot of criticism about Hollywood once again featuring a white savior couple (the movie slightly addresses this). Although the birth parent isn’t a villain, a stereotype that was purposely avoided, it feels that storyline got cut short. And you might not laugh at every joke — but, man, it is funny.

Beyond all that, this movie is important for a number of other reasons.

1. You might see yourself on the big screen for the first time

The movie is written and directed by a foster parent, Sean Anders. He knows what it’s like to be a foster parent, and he’s not holding back.

Did you have someone in your classes that wanted a very specific kind of child (think a recreation of The Blind Side)? Because Anders did, and so did a few others in the showing I went to.

Did you ever have a moment where you thought you made a mistake getting into this? Anders had that moment, too.

Without giving too much away, a lot that happens at the adoption fair in Instant Family came from real life experiences, and the drama around a hairbrush is all real life — things you might’ve experienced, too.

But it’s not just about you. Your teen just might feel seen too.

I’m not saying they’ll run up to you after the show and talk about how amazing it is to have someone in a movie express exactly how they feel — lets be real. BUT there were multiple former foster youth that were able to stand up after the movie and thank the director for finally telling their story.

Oh, and social workers, you weren’t forgotten either. You’re pretty likely to hear some things you’ve said (or at least thought).

2. Instant Family really incorporated foster and adoptive families

You could watch the movie 100 times and never know this, but I’m also a journalist and got to talk to Sean Anders and some of the others who worked on the movie to get some inside scoop.

During the movie, the couple goes to an adoption fair. You see tons of kids and families running around as extras. And those families are all real-life adoptive parents and their kids.

It was important to those working on Instant Family to incorporate and honor those whose story they’re telling, and Hollywood could use a bit more of that.

3. They asked questions

Instant Family is inspired by Sean Anders’ life, but it’s not entirely based on his experiences. The difference between those two things seems confusing, but Anders explained that when he set off to tell this story, he didn’t want it to just be his story.

He got a number of other foster families together and listened to their journeys. In a sense, it’s a tapestry of a number of stories, which in a way makes it everyone’s story.

Instant Family also hired one person specifically, Maraide Green, to help the character of the teenage girl, Lizzie. Green had been in out of of foster homes since she was eight. She was adopted when she was 13. Her guidance is why Lizzie might seem so real to so many other foster youth.

Want to know more about this former foster youth? When you’re watching the movie, just listen to the monologue by a teenage girl during a prospective parent orientation. It’s Green’s real story. It’s powerful. You’ll cry.

4. This movie almost didn’t get made

Foster care is funny? If you read our family spotlights, you’ll find laughter as a common theme, but those high-up Hollywood executives didn’t believe it.

It wasn’t until Mark Wahlberg signed on that things got serious. But Anders doesn’t want this to be the end. He hopes people see it’s OK to laugh through the hard times and Hollywood keeps telling these stories.

But they can’t do it without your vote. OK, not exactly your vote, but if you think this kind of story is important, you can show your support by buying a ticket. Hollywood is a business after all.

5. You deserve it

I understand not everyone is going to be able to go to the theaters. You might have to wait until it comes to RedBox or is available online. But if you’re on the fence, I think it’s worth it.

Laugh. Cry. And take a couple hours for yourself. You’re a hard-working foster parent and you deserve it.

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