Somewhere I heard a parent telling an adopted child that if anyone ever teased them about being adopted they should reply “Well my parents chose me and yours had to take you whether they wanted to or not.” That not be quite how it goes, but you get the drift — it was an attempt to make the child feel wanted. Of course the flip side to that is somewhere along the line someone didn’t want that child and gave him or her up.
There are numerous reasons why a woman might give a child up for adoption, and to be perfectly honest, I think that anybody who has the slightest doubts about their desire to be a parent should be encouraged to put their child up for adoption. The last thing the world needs is another parent ambivalent enough about their child that they will neglect or abuse him or her. Yet I wonder how I would feel if I found out that the woman who originally gave birth to me hadn’t wanted me? Would I be able to be as understanding as my opinions, or would I fell abandoned and betrayed because this person was supposed to have loved me?
What would you do if you had been put up for adoption and now as an adult find out that your birth mother wants to meet you? Would you wonder why, after all these years, she should all of a sudden desire to get to know you? She’s had nothing to do with raising or taking care of you and has no claim to your affections and now all of sudden she wants to meet you. How would that make you feel and what emotions would that dredge up? Would you meet her?
April Epner is having a difficult time; her husband has just left her, her mother died, and her birth mother has sent her a letter asking if she can meet her. As an added complication she’s thirty-nine years old and not only hears her biological clock ticking but feels like its battery is running down and fast. This is the reality we are asked to enter into within the first half hour of Then She Found Me, now available on DVD and Blu-ray through Image Entertainment. With an opening like that, there’s usually only one or two directions a movie will take: it will either play it for laughs or heart warming and sentimental. If they’re really daring, they might even try to combine the two. Then She Found Me turns out not to be your usual movie and travels in a direction that is completely unexpected, and is all the better for it.
If April’s (played by Helen Hunt who also co-wrote and directed) life isn’t complicated enough she meets Frank (Colin Firth) whose wife has recently deserted him and two young children, and they tentatively begin a relationship. In spite of how hurt and betrayed they both feel, things are looking good for them until April discovers that her husband Benjamin (Matthew Broderick) had, while saying good-bye, managed to accomplish what he couldn’t during the rest of their marriage: impregnate her.
While it looks like April and Frank are going to be able to cope with this, he’s even willing to allow Benjamin to be involved in raising the child, April having sex with Benjamin again breaks them apart. At the same time that April is negotiating this emotional minefield she’s trying to assimilate the news that a daytime talk show host named Bernice Graves (Bette Midler) is her birth mother. While initially hesitant to believe Bernice is her mother, it doesn’t help matters when she lies about who the father was, she gradually warms to her and begins to open up with her.
From the little I’ve let slip of the plot it would be easy to see this movie descending into melodramatic or heart warming territory. Thankfully Helen Hunt, as writer, director and producer, has avoided all the cliches and pitfalls that plague most movies about human relationships. In an interview included in the special features section of the DVD Helen Hunt says the movie is ultimately about betrayal and how to overcome that. Aside from Frank, each of the four main characters in the movie betrays someone along the way, while Frank and April both have to deal with being betrayed and figuring out how, and if, they can overcome it.
The script, based on Elinor Lipman’s novel of the same name, doesn’t offer any easy or pat answers to that question. In fact, at one point April warns Frank that she will probably hurt him again and that most likely he will hurt her, but it’s a risk she’s willing to take if he is. Learning to trust isn’t something that happens overnight, and for once a movie about relationships depicts that honestly. It’s not just about believing the person who betrayed you either, it’s about feeling safe enough to trust anybody.
One of the reasons I watched this movie was because of the presence of Colin Firth in the cast. He can read the phone book and make it interesting, and here he has something a little more substantial than that to work with. There is one scene in the movie where he finally lets out all the resentment and hurt he’s been feeling from the time his wife left him. He is not only completely believable, he’s downright scary because he doesn’t just yell merely lets us see the pain his character is in.
The movie is filled with moments like that, where the actors and the situation combine to create moments of reality that are so emotionally charged the feelings are palpable. While it admittedly makes the movie difficult to watch at times — it feels uncomfortably like eavesdropping on occasion — it’s the major reason why the movie is so believable. It’s not just an emotionally heavy movie either, as there are moments of pure humour in it that will make you laugh out loud just as easily as others can bring tears to your eyes.
Then She Found Me is a remarkable film in that it gives an honest depiction of how hard it is to overcome our experiences to take advantage of an opportunity for happiness. Happenstance, misfortune, and other people’s behaviour can sometimes cause us pain, but the way we react to them, the way we cope with the aftermath, is entirely our own decision. This movie is one of the most accurate and compelling depictions I’ve seen of people struggling to overcome their own fears to take the leap of faith required to start over again.
While there aren’t many special features included in the disc, for a change the making of featurette included is actually informative and interesting as it explained some of the process that Helen Hunt went through having to direct and perform in the movie. There are also short interviews with each of the four leads where they explain why and how they became involved with the movie and reflect on their involvement in it. The version I saw came with the option of 5.1 surround sound or regular Dolby digital stereo, and was in wide screen format.
If you watch Then She Found Me expecting to see your typical romantic comedy you will be sorely disappointed. However, what you will see is a movie that contains moments that are funny, sad, angry, confused, and depicting the reality of people struggling to find comfort with each other in a world that sometimes moves too fast for them to keep up.