“Like Dandelion Dust,” released in 2010, is a heart-wrenching story about adoption. Adapted from the best-selling novel by Karen Kingsbury, this story pulled me in as it took me through a tug of war between a birth family wanting another chance at raising their child and an adoptive family that feels justified in keeping this son they have built a life around.
The movie introduces the key characters very quickly. There is a Floridian family made of two very wealthy parents, Jack and Molly Campbell, and their adopted son, Joey. Birth father and obvious alcoholic, Rip Porter, has just been released from serving seven years in prison for abusing his wife, Wendy. Wendy hesitantly discloses that while Rip was in prison she birthed their son, a son whom he did not know about. As any good mother would, Wendy wanted what was best for her child, so she put him up for adoption while her husband was incarcerated and she could not provide for him. She had forged Rip’s signature all those years ago. Rip, wanting to start over, pushed for he and Wendy to go get their son back. Although a bit reluctant, Wendy quickly fell into this romantic plot to rebuild her fallen marriage and regain the son she really wanted to love and raise.
Sure enough, a social worker made the difficult call to the Campbells, notifying them of the Porter’s interest in getting their son back. Because the signature was forged that many years ago, the judge ruled in favor of the Porters, and Joey would have to leave the only family he had ever known.
The Campbells scramble to get this order of reunion denied. The audience is led to believe that Joey belonged with the parents that had truly been there for him.
Joey has to make two home visits to his birth parents’ Ohio home before staying permanently. This process tugged and pulled at my heart. There is no mistaking the tension of the situation. The first visit shows Joey’s reluctance, fear, heartache and anxiety. The social worker, although seemingly nice, becomes a traitor in the eyes of the adoptive family. The birth parents, with excited timidity, show in simple ways that they are indeed not seasoned parents. The second visit was a tad bit easier for Joey to take. All the while the Campbells are miserably stewing and scheming about how to get out of this nightmare.
Rip shows little evidence that proves he could be a good father and starts to abuse Wendy again. Even with all the grace his wife was pouring over him, his choices and addictions were going to lead him in a familiar direction, losing all that he held dear.
The climax approaches as the Campbells decide to leave the country on a missionary trip with Molly’s sister’s church group. As suspected, the Campbells make arrangements not to return to the comfortable life that they had known, but to stay in Haiti. They were fleeing, leaving everything but hopeful to keep all that they cared about, their son Joey. They got caught and were escorted back to the US and faced with the reality of losing their son.
The most riveting scene takes place at the end of the movie as the Campbells face the birth mother, Wendy, at the airport. The have to surrender. Shockingly, Wendy signs over her rights and allows her baby boy, Joey, to go home with his adoptive family. She gives up the fight and appears to be the hero in an odd way.
As a viewer, I felt conflicted. Although I immediately thought in the beginning of the movie that Joey should remain with the only parents he had ever known, I was drawn to the birth mother’s good heart and genuine kindness and yearning for her son. As a mother, I wanted her to have her boy. However, Molly, the adoptive mom, was just as much a mother as Wendy was. She had been there for every moment of this young boy’s life. She was the mother that Joey knew.
I found the movie to be a bit over dramatic at times. The plot was heavy, but it often felt cheated with the way it was acted. My favorite actor in the movie would have to be Mira Sorvino (the birth mother, Wendy Potter). I thought her purity was sweet. I felt the need to cheer her on even though that meant that the outcome I wanted wouldn’t occur if I wanted her to succeed. She drew me in with her forbearance and quiet devotion.
I find it hard to believe that something like this could happen. However, I know there are no guarantees in life. As a foster parent, I loved the opportunity to be given the chance to see in such a tangible way how both sides in an adoptive situation may feel. I was also prompted to be more compassionate in regard to the obstacles that may be in the way of my foster children’s birth mother.