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Reel Families

These three summer flicks top our must-see list.

The Kids Are All Right
Nic and Jules (played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) are raising their two teens, who were conceived through donor insemination. The siblings set out to find their biological father (Mark Ruffalo), and the events that follow are both hilarious and deeply touching. On the surface, this is a story about a family that’s far from traditional; at its heart, this entertaining film sends a message we’re already familiar with: Family is what you make of it. Focus Features; rated R; 104 min. In theaters July 9.

Mother and Child
This drama knits together the stories of three women, all touched by adoption. Karen (played by Annette Bening) is a birthmother who placed a child for adoption when she was 14; Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) is that daughter, now an ambitious lawyer; Lucy (Kerry Washington) is a woman seeking to adopt. Though the actors all perform admirably, the storyline strikes several false notes—Elizabeth grew up obsessed with and angry at her unknown birthmother, and the prospective birthmother with whom Lucy connects seems bent on manipulation. Still, this film gives much to think—and even to debate—about. Sony Pictures Classics; rated R; 125 min. Stay tuned for DVD release.

A documentary crew followed four babies—Ponijao, in Namibia; Bayarjargal, in Mongolia; Mari, in Japan; and Hattie, in the U.S.—from birth through their first birthdays. The resulting story, told without narration, is riveting. Babies isn’t about adoption, but it captures moments that will speak to families created across cultural and geographical boundaries. And, really, does any parent need much of an excuse to watch adorable infants frolic onscreen? Our kids, too, will be fascinated to see what it’s like to begin life in different parts of the world. Focus Features; rated PG; 79 min. Stay tuned for DVD release.

PHOTO: The cast of The Kids Are All Right; Courtesy of Suzanne Tanner, Focus Features.

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Wanted to share with other the wonders of being an adoptive mom. What is a mother’s love capable of? For Duluth teacher Chay Gravell it was a project to keep her adopted children connected to their homeland. In 2006 Joey and Chay Gravell brought their son Jakob home from Majuro, and island near Guam that is part of the Marshall Islands. Their commitment to raise him to speak English like his dad, and Spanish like his mom, also included teaching him to speak Marshallese like his birth parents. This led Chay to write and publish the book “The Baru from Majuro” about the beautiful island of Majuro with native words illustrated and translated into English. Chay spent months writing and illustrating the book with the help of a friend who was instrumental in publishing it professionally. This book is now a hit in the community as well as in her classroom at Duluth Adventist Christian School. As her students embrace her vision they are learning this language themselves by reading the book and singing songs from Majuro for chapel. Multiples friends and family have bought numerous copies of the book sending sales soaring to close to 100 copies sold to date. Joey and Chay Gravell’s love for their son sent them back to the island in 2009 to adopt Chloey, Jakob’s biological sister. Now Chay is teaching both her children to love their homeland and embrace its language. A mother’s love is very powerful, and in this case it has created a new home for these children, while preserving and strengthening their cultural identity. Story by Shelly Caswell

Posted by: Chay Gravell at 12:36am Aug 1

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