Adoption at the Movies
By Addison Cooper
As a 12-year-old student in the late 1990’s, Janey is confronted with a homework assignment that is causing her some anxiety. Janey is required to place all of her relatives on a family tree; however, Janey is unsure of how to proceed. She has been adopted, and does not know the identity of any of her birth family members. Janey confronts her parents to demand answers – they’ve been holding one secret from her. At the same time, Janey is keeping a second secret inside – (SPOILER ALERT: feelings she has for her close friend, Stephanie… END SPOILER).
The Adoption Connection
Two Secrets captures the genuine adoption challenge of dealing with the family tree assignment that shows up so often. The film is infused with questions of identity and the desire to know about one’s birthparents and the circumstances that led to adoption.
This film is based on the real-life story of Ali Dolan, who is also a co-writer and producer of the film.
Janey speaks openly with her friends about being adopted. When one of her friends tries to empathize with her by saying that “being adopted sucks,” Janey responds with a balanced perspective, “Being adopted doesn’t suck. They chose me. My birth parents gave me up so I can have a better life. But I’m bothered by the stuff I don’t know.” Although some in the adoption community will bristle at the word choices of “better life,” “chosen” and “given up,” these do reflect how a teen might describe adoption, and the perspective does seem to acknowledge both the positive and negative aspects of Janey’s experience.
SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY
Janey challenges her parents when they initially balk at her request for information. Although they say, “All we know is you’re our daughter,” Janey proclaims that that’s not enough. She asserts that she has other friends who were adopted who do know their histories and have access to their medical information and birth certificates. Her parents say that they love her and ask, “Isn’t that enough?” Janey refuses, “No, you know who you are and I want to know who I am.” And her parents finally give in and share her story with her. Janey had to fight for it, but her parents finally gave her a document that explains her story.
For such a short film, this covers a lot of adoption issues, and it shows that kids and teens can handle even difficult truths.
Challenges – BIG SPOILERS IN THIS SECTION
I wish that Janey's parents were able to explain the circumstances of her adoption in a more gentle way. Her dad simply hands her a newspaper article and says, basically, “That’s you.” Janey finds out that she was abandoned as a baby, and was found alive in the trash. That’s hard for her to integrate into her life, but she eventually does. While this could be a hard scene for viewers to watch, as it may trigger their own feelings regarding abandonment, I love that Janey is able to find healing once she has her whole story. Her parents meant to protect her by keeping her unaware, but Janey exceeds their expectations by finding wholeness in the midst of a painful story.
Janey and another 12-year-old share an extended kissing scene. Because the characters are only preteens, the length and style of the scene might make some viewers uncomfortable. END SPOILER
It’s a short film covering a lot of adoption issues. Some of them feel a little clichéd rather than addressed in-depth, but that might be due to the time constraints of the film.
No definite weak points, but some viewers who have been adopted might be particularly impacted in a painful way by the circumstances of Janey’s adoption, which might trigger feelings or fears of actual or imagined abandonment.
Two Secrets seems like it would be the most helpful for adoptive parents, and for people considering becoming adoptive parents. It challenges the belief that secrets should be kept from adoptees. Kids themselves might find it a bit hard to watch because of the particular details of Janey’s story. I also wanted to note that the part of Janey is particularly well-played.
Questions for Discussion
How did learning about her story help Janey?
When should her parents have told her?
How could they have done it better?
For more on the film, check out the Two Secrets Website or See the Trailer Here
The lead actress, Cassidy Mack, is a teenager who has been adopted from foster care and who has spoken in front of Congress twice. She has started a foundation called the Love Gives Chances Foundation to encourage and empower kids in foster care. Learn more here!