4 out of 5 stars
Few topics provide more openings to humour, drama and familial tension like adoption. The idea of introducing children to a new family after living in potentially traumatic situations throughout their lives does provide a multitude of avenues to consider. Instant Family is based on the true-to-life experiences of director Sean Anders (Daddy’s Home) and his family in the fostering process. Showing the extreme highs and lows of transition that go on for everyone involved in the making of a new family unit and how each situation presents its own opportunities and challenges.
Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) Wagners have literally built their lives up from the humblest of situations and manage their own house flipping business. They do not live an extravagant life, but they have moved into a comfortable season and yet find that something is missing in their lives. After some consideration, they decide to look into fostering and begin working along the path to bringing a child into their home.
As they progress in the journey to parenthood, the married couple is introduced to Lizzie (Isabela Moner) and her two younger siblings, Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz). Not expecting to bring home three children, they still decide this is the best route for their future and the children. At first the transition seems to work well, but eventually the cracks begin to form for this burgeoning family. Between issues with discipline, boundaries, extended family reactions and the various seasons of their children’s lives all push the Wagners' resolve to the limit. They begin to question their decision and whether the children will be better with another family.
As we head into the Christmas season, it is refreshing to have a non-animated choice for families to enjoy together. A heart-warming tale that touches on the harsh realities of life, but shows that there can be hope in this world. Not to think that this is a saccharine-sweet tale of redemption, even though there is a warm and lovely element to Sean Anders story of foster care. What the writer/director does show is that in amongst the harsh realities of society parents can prevail with love, mercy and consistency. Showing that in this modern era of social media that the establishment of boundaries is essential for a family to stay connected.
By introducing the community that is needed for the support of this transitional aspect of families provides a glimpse into a side of life that most are shielded from experiencing. Between the balanced input from the two social workers played brilliantly by Tig Notaro and Octavia Spencer, the support parents circle and the reactions from extended family members proves that despite the imperfections of people, it is best to do life with others.
At the heart of the story, Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne and the children make this a convincing journey of a foster family even though the screenplay does contain harsh language, deals with sexting and shows the impact of illicit drugs on society. Instant Family is an endearing opportunity for families, but be ready to talk about some of the darker sides and the importance of protecting children in modern life.
REEL DIALOGUE: What does the Bible say about adoption?
There is nothing quite like the love of a parent. Even in the worst of experiences, the love, support and hug from your father or mother should have a soothing effect on your very existence. Instant Family provides a glimpse into the value of family, but at the heart of the story is the essential need for the love of parents. This relationship can come in the form of blood relations, a blended family or through adoption and shows that no price can be put on the importance of parents in the life of a child. Have you told your parents how much they mean to you today?
1. What is sacrificial love? (John 15:13, Ephesians 5:25)
2. What should we do in difficult times? (John 16:33, Philippians 4:6-7)
3. What does the Bible say about family? (John 15:12-17)