DIRECTOR: Jon Gunn

CAST: Maxwell Perry Cotton, Kate Levering, Cole Hauser, Mira Sorvino and Barry Pepper

CLASSIFICATION: 13

RUNNING TIME: 104

RATING: HHHHI

Latoya Newman

Like Dandelion Dust is by far one of the most compelling watches on the big screen so far this year. In her novel (adapted for screen by Stephen J Rivele and Michael Lachance), Karen Kingsbury fleshes out issues around adoption by focusing on two families’ ordeals over one little boy – with both ordeals being equally heartbreaking.

But it is not these adoption issues that are the key pull factor of this movie, it is their unfolding and the related emotions, which expose humanity at its best and worst, in a manner that will leave you empathising with both sides of the story.

You will not be able to “choose a side” – which is so easy to do in theory when it comes to the “best interests of the child”, but when its played out in front you, with every party having a human face, it isn’t so easy.

Joey Campbell (Cotton) is a six-year-old little boy whose picture-perfect existence with adoptive mom and dad, Molly and Jack (Levering and Hauser), is ripped from under his feet when his biological parents, Wendy and Rip Porter (Sorvino and Pepper), try to get their son back.

Joey doesn’t know he has been adopted.

From the face of this story, one is tempted to want to side with the Campbells and get angered with the Porters for wanting to take this little one out of a good life with the promise of a well-cared-for future. But as the story of these families unfolds, it is not so easy to judge.

The Porters are your typical blue-collar family, struggling to make ends meet. An added burden is Rip’s alcohol abuse and his violent outbursts that land him in jail – oblivious to the fact that Wendy had his baby and opted to give the boy up for adoption because of the situation. Six years later, on his release from prison, Wendy tells the seemingly rehabilitated Rip about their child and the couple decide to save their family. Only it’s not easy because little Joey is a happy boy, leading an affluent lifestyle with the only the parents he’s ever known.

Two completely opposite families now find their lives colliding over one common factor – the love they have for the little boy.

How do you choose to use the law to get your little boy back knowing that you will take away a good home and education and provide a life of poverty? How do you look your six-year-old in the face and tell him you are not his parents and he needs to now go and live with complete strangers? Would you leave the country with your child to ensure he stays with you? Would you try to “buy” your child’s staying with you? These are some of the decisions the Porters and Campbells will have to make.

As they go about working out these issues, the audience is taken on an emotional journey.

While the cast deserve kudos for their performances, especially Cotton, who will have you in tears as he pleads with his adoptive parents to let him stay, the leading ladies in this film, Sorvino and Levering, each portray the essence of mothers.

As Porter aptly puts it: “(Joey) has two mothers, one who loved him so much that she couldn’t let him go and one who loved him so much that she had to let him go.”

If you liked … Losing Isaiah … you will enjoy this.