What is it like to be a little girl, flown out of China with some sense of past home, place and life, then adopted and raised as an American in a secure home with love and good parenting? This skillfully-made documentary puts you in the shoes–no, the skins–of four young women who, in the words of one, are like bananas, yellow outside and white inside. They are all bright, well-educated, hard-working, and grounded, but something is still missing in their lives. Just what should China mean to them? Most interesting is the story of Haley, who returns to China with her adoptive parents and – defying the odds – manages to track down her birth family. The reunion was touching, but it left me with a lot of questions, especially wondering where the relationship goes from there? It was fascinating that, in her case at least, her father wanted to keep her and it was her mother who actually abandoned her.
Since China implemented its one-child policy in 1979, 175,000 children, mostly girls, have been placed in adopted homes in 26 countries. About 80,000 ended up in the United States, and it was the notion of director Linda Goldstein Knowlton to spend three years following the lives of four of these now-teenage young women. Each girl at some point calls herself a “banana” — yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Later, one refines her view, saying, “It’s more like scrambled eggs,” the white and yellow all mixed up. Another has an epiphany that her manic drive to excel could be an attempt to prove her worth to the family who gave her up. These are young women well worth listening to, and Somewhere Between does so with grace and respect.
So the filmmaker befriended a community of teenage Chinese-American adoptees, and made this engrossing documentary portrait of four of these girls. All adapted with ease to being American. But just as adolescence brings new complexities to all lives, it causes the four girls to understand their apartness, question their identities, and confront their abandonment (a word they don’t like) as babies in a harsher light. Just as these four teens brought so much joy to so many, Somewhere Between is sure to bring tears to the eyes of viewers. It’s not only that the kids are all right, but maybe this country is too. One thing that I took away from Somewhere Between is the need the children shared in knowing about their heritage. For some it is a desire to perhaps visit the orphanage or village they came from or for others it may be too track down their birth parents. The movie is an absolute delight and will appeal to a wide range of movie-goers, but will especially touch those in the adoption community who can relate first hand about the heartfelt journey of adoption.
To say that this film is moving is truly an understatement. It is a huge tribute to Linda Goldstein Knowlton that without any obvious efforts to tug on our heartstrings, she has put together a film that is searing, beautiful and I hope destined to become a must-see for anyone contemplating an inter-racial or inter-cultural adoption. I so look forward to her next venture and wish her the very best with her own, thus far successful, adoption. Surprising turns, sweet storytelling and great subjects make this a worthy film, sure to touch audiences with or without connection to adoption.