SOMEWHERE BETWEEN tells the intimate stories of four teenaged girls. They live in different parts of the US, in different kinds of families and are united by one thing: all four were adopted from China because all four had birth parents who could not keep them, due to personal circumstances colliding with China’s “One Child Policy”. These strong young women allow us to grasp what it is like to come-of-age in today’s America as trans-racial adoptees. At the same time, we see them as typical American teenagers doing what teenagers everywhere do…struggling to make sense of their lives. Through these young women, and their explorations of who they are, we ourselves pause to consider who we are – both as individuals and as a nation of immigrants. Identity, racism, and gender…these far-reaching issues are explored in the documentary. And with great honesty and courage, these four girls open their hearts to experience love, compassion, and self-acceptance. Written by Linda Goldstein Knowlton
Across the United States of America, there are many Chinese children that have been adopted due to the One Child Policy of China. Many of them are girls that were not wanted at birth due to the policy. In China, there are many advantages to having a boy, so that leads to a great deal more girls being abandoned at birth. These girls are often sent to America simply because there is no shortage of parents that want them. There are thousands of couples that want children but are unable to have them. Somewhere Between is a documentary about this very thing, and the problems and joys of the children and their adoptive parents.
Linda Goldstein Knowlton, an adoptive mother herself, directs and shows the story of four adopted young girls from their point of view. Somewhere Between is a warm and loving documentary that covers the four girls and their four very different families. The documentary is over the course of three years, and it focuses a good deal more on the girls than on anything else.
Ultimately they go to Europe to gather with others like themselves and then they return to China as well. The four girls are bright, energetic, adorable and decent in every way. You find yourself literally loving them from the start of the movie and it only grows as you go on.
Ann is a typical American teen that seems to embrace American culture more than most. She is one of the most outgoing of the four. Jenna is the ultimate student that also has two moms. Fang seems to be all about returning home to China to help others like herself find homes and safety. Haley is a loving Christian girl that is determined to find her birth parents and repeatedly returns to China to attempt to do so.
In fact, Haley provides the most upsetting part of the documentary in my eyes. Her situation was uncomfortable but necessary to say the least. Eventually, she does make contact with her family in China. This is not common at all because they are so secretive about details when a child is adopted. When they do finally get together, it is the perfect picture of discomfort that one might expect after so many years of being apart and the issues of abandonment that it fostered.
The one part of this documentary that I did not care for was that it shies away from the majority of these types of drama. There are some parts that dive into the difficult areas of adoption, but most of the serious questions are left unasked or unanswered. Instead, it feels coached and a bit too lighthearted in its delivery. You certainly want to see the girls well-adjusted and doing great, but it is okay to dive into the problems you run into when you adopt as well. I do, however, like that Knowlton avoids the obvious mistake of putting all of this off on the parents.
The parents in China are often given little choice as poor peasants that are forced to make terrible decisions are not uncommon. The movie easily could have created a movie about how the parents are at fault and focus on that. They do no such thing and Haley even shows that she is advanced beyond her years in how she handles her reunion despite her obvious pain over the situation. The reunion is ugly and seemed painful for her to say the least.
Somewhere Between also is about the identity problems that these girls face. Are they Chinese or American in their own eyes? This struggle over who they are is looked at closely in the documentary and it is the highlight of the film in my opinion.
If you are looking for a film that will make you think, then Somewhere Between is an excellent choice.