×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Somewhere Between

One needs several hearts to survive the breakage inflicted by "Somewhere Between," a delicately wrought, deeply felt docu-profile of four teenage girls who differ in background and aspirations, but share one life-defining factor: All are Chinese adoptees.

With:
With Jenna Cook, Haley Butler, Ann Boccuti, Fang "Jenni" Lee.

One needs several hearts to survive the breakage inflicted by “Somewhere Between,” a delicately wrought, deeply felt docu-profile of four teenage girls who differ in background and aspirations, but share one life-defining factor: All are Chinese adoptees, and all are trying to come to terms with that fact as they navigate the already perilous waters of American adolescence. As the film states, 80,000 children from China have been adopted in the United States since 1989. Considering Knowlton’s sublime subjects and sensitive execution, despite a certain vagueness of context, the docu could have widespread appeal.

Knowlton (who co-directed the 2006 Sundance docu “The World According to Sesame Street”), isn’t close to being a remote observer: She adopted a daughter from China, and so “Somewhere Between” is as much an effort by the director to get a grip on the issues her daughter will face as it is an exploration of its subjects’ cultural quandary. Fortunately and wisely, Knowlton picked a quartet of Asian-Americans who are secure, self-possessed and articulate enough to approach their own questions in a manner that transcends race or nationality.

All four — Jenna Cook, Haley Butler, Ann Boccuti and Fang Lee, known as Jenni — share an outsider’s perspective and a certain self-deprecating humor; they refer to themselves, and occasionally each other, as Twinkies, scrambled eggs and bananas (“white on the inside, yellow on the outside”). All were adopted out of Chinese orphanages and wound up in different parts of the U.S. — Lee in Berkeley, Calif., Cook in Massachusetts, Butler in Nashville, and Boccuti outside Philadelphia.

Their families seem sublimely happy; it would be interesting to know if Knowlton stumbled across any potential subjects whose adoptions didn’t work out. But the teens’ individual experiences are in some ways dramatically different, notably that of Lee, who remembers being abandoned at age 5 by her brother at a bus stop.

What seems most notably absent from the film are the motivations of the adoptive parents. Knowlton doesn’t discuss her own reasons; nor does she ask anyone else, although an occasional clue is dropped: Butler, for instance, has grown up in a devoutly Christian home in Tennessee (there’s a fleeting shot of her mother’s car and its anti-abortion/pro-adoption bumper sticker). One assumes religion played a part in the adoption, but it isn’t discussed.

Docu could offered a more in-depth explanation of why so many Chinese girls were available for international adoption, which would have enriched the story without derailing it. Beijing’s misguided one-child policy is addressed, but not its calamitous consequences: Chinese tradition calls for the son to care for his aged parents, so a girl without brothers was considered a liability.

Knowlton is more interested in her subjects’ world-views, attitudes and peeves — like being told so often how lucky they are to live in America. All express an interest in going back to China, and finding their birth parents; Butler, in fact, does just that, in what is easily the film’s most electrifying sequence.

Production values are tops, especially the agile HD lensing by Nelson Hume and Christine Burrill.

Popular on Variety

Somewhere Between

Production: A Ladylike Films presentation. Produced by Linda Goldstein Knowlton. Executive producers, Bobby Chang, Jon Fitzgerald. Co-producers, Patricia Verducci, Katie Flint. Directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton.

Crew: Camera (color), Nelson Hume, Christine Burrill; editor, Katie Flint; music, Lili Haydn; music supervisor, Linda Cohen; sound, Lindsey Alvarez; associate producer, Stephanie Graves. Reviewed at Los Angeles Film Festival (competing), June 17, 2011. (Also in Hot Docs Film Festival.) Running time: 94 MIN.

With: With Jenna Cook, Haley Butler, Ann Boccuti, Fang "Jenni" Lee.

More Film

  • BETWEEN TWO FERNS, 2019, PH_0027.RAF

    Film Review: 'Between Two Ferns: The Movie'

    If you’re a fan of “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis,” the fake public-access talk show that Zach Galifianakis has been hosting online, for three to six minutes a pop, over the last 10 years, then you’ll probably like “Between Two Ferns: The Movie,” the snark-lite 82-minute road movie that Galifianakis and his director and [...]

  • The Irishman

    Martin Scorsese, Frances McDormand, Donald Sutherland Join Lineup of France's Lumiere Festival

    Martin Scorsese’s eagerly awaited Netflix movie “The Irishman” wasn’t completed on time to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival, but Thierry Fremaux, Cannes’s topper, managed to pin down the high-profile movie and Scorsese himself for the upcoming Lumiere festival in Lyon next month. Dedicated to heritage movies, the Lumiere festival was created 10 years [...]

  • 'Aladdin' Star Mena Massoud Calls for

    'Aladdin' Star Mena Massoud Calls for a Broader Diversity of Storytelling in Movies and TV

    The star of “Aladdin,” Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud, called for a greater diversity of storytelling in movies and television when he spoke at the glamorous opening ceremony Thursday of the 3rd edition of Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival. Massoud, whose credits include Amazon’s “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” and Hulu’s “Reprisal,” lauded “the power of art” [...]

  • 4127_D015_00199_RC(l-r) Laura Carmichael stars as Lady

    Box Office: 'Downton Abbey' Beats 'Ad Astra,' 'Rambo: Last Blood' on Thursday Night

    “Downton Abbey,” the movie continuation of the hit TV series centering on the Crawley family, has won Thursday previews with $2.1 million from 2,800 North American locations. Meanwhile, Brad Pitt’s space drama “Ad Astra” has launched with $1.5 million in previews, while Sylvester Stallone’s action-thriller “Rambo: Last Blood” scooped up $1.3 million at nearly 2,900 [...]

  • Renee Zellweger'Judy' film premiere, Arrivals, Samuel

    'Judy's' L.A. Premiere: Renée Zellweger Takes Another Ruby Step Toward the Oscars

    Renée Zellweger continues to follow the yellow brick road to the Oscars. The Los Angeles premiere of Judy on Thursday night in Beverly Hills kept the Academy Award winner on track for a possible second win come February. “We’re just so happy we’re able to share it with you tonight,” Zellweger said to the crowd [...]

  • Benedict Andrews (L) and US actress

    Kristen Stewart on the 'Insane Gall' of Directors as 'Seberg' Arrives in San Sebastian

    SAN SEBASTIAN – On Friday, Kristen Stewart and Benedict Andrews’ political thriller “Seberg” plays at the 67th San Sebastian Film Festival, where it opens Perlak, a section dedicated to the Spanish premieres of major international films. The star and her director addressed the media prior to the screening in the festival’s first high-profile press conference, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content