Somewhere Between: The Pitfalls of Chinese Adoption

As the documentary equivalent of a group character study, Somewhere Between isn't as sharply focused as you might hope. Director Linda Goldstein Knowlton never delves far enough into her subjects' stories for her film to feel more nuanced than, say, a good commercial for international child-adoption services. Its depiction of the adoption of four Chinese girls by surrogate American families is largely reliant on pat, unenlightening interviews, and much of Knowlton's footage is arranged in such a way that her subjects raise questions but never fully consider them, especially on the vital topic of the alienation that these four orphans—who have had no contact with their birth parents—can't help but feel among their white families and friends. Sometimes it's unclear what some footage is meant to signify: What are we supposed to think when we see that the surrogate parents of Jenna, one of the film's four subjects, have a bumper sticker that has the letters "b" and "r" in the word "abortion" crossed out and replaced, respectively, with a "d" and a "p"? Or when Jenna is teased by her friends about her ethnicity, and she nervously jokes with them that she knows that "You're not sorry!" In too many scenes, interviewees make loaded statements that Knowlton doesn't do enough to explore. As it is, it's hard to know what these teens are thinking beyond the fact that they're frustrated but aren't able to express their frustration as well as they might like to.

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