Somewhere Between: Film Review

Somewhere Between still - H 2012

Somewhere Between still - H 2012

Doc thoughtfully follows China-born girls adopted by American parents.

Linda Goldstein Knowlton's doc follows four Chinese teenage girls adopted by American parents.

Four bright teenage girls represent a generation of intercontinental adoptees in Linda Goldstein Knowlton's Somewhere Between, an affecting look at the wave of children displaced by China's One Child Policy. Full of accessible human drama and likable (if not particularly colorful) characters, the film should benefit from good word-of-mouth among documentary fans and the large pool of families who'll see themselves reflected here.

Bookending the story with her own experience adopting a Chinese infant, Knowlton wisely stays out of the movie otherwise -- though one wonders if she's subconsciously expressing optimism for her own child by selecting four subjects who have coped so well with their situation. It isn't that they're completely without angst -- they speak, occasionally with mild adolescent self-absorption, about conflicted racial identity and the stigma of having been abandoned. But these girls have been well served by the adoption process and can realistically dream of being, say, the first Asian fiddler to play the Grand Ole Opry.

A large chunk of time is spent on how the teens wind up processing emotions about their roots: One, touchingly, becomes attached to a Chinese orphan with cerebral palsy and keeps tabs on her for years as an American family adopts her. Another goes hunting for her birth parents and, rather surprisingly, finds them. The large reunion scene is awkward but less so than one would expect of an encounter in which an adoptive mother asks, "We wanted to know, who actually abandoned her?"

The film's perspective might be intentionally narrow, playing down questions about what motivates the adults on both sides of the equation and completely ignoring larger geopolitical questions. (In another recent documentary, this one focused on escalating Chinese power, an American man who adopted a Chinese girl wonders if he has in fact done her a favor.) But adoptees themselves almost certainly will find Somewhere Between an empowering reminder that tens of thousands of kids have walked this path before.

Production: Ruby Films
Director-producer: Linda Goldstein Knowlton
Executive producers: Bobby Chang, Jon Fitzgerald
Directors of photography: Nelson Hume, Christine Burill
Music: Lili Haydn
Editor: Katie Flint
No rating, 88 minutes.