In this day and age, families come in all shapes and sizes and creating a family doesn’t always have to be done in the traditional way. Instant Family puts the fostering and adoption systems front and centre in a film that is not only both heart warming and funny but also highlights the importance to remembering the children who are stuck in the system awaiting the perfect family. This is a film that reminds us that everyone needs a chance, no matter where they have come from and what they have been through. It’s a family film at heart, with important serious moments as well as some wonderful comedy.
Instant Family tells the story of married couple Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne), a couple who have been more concerned with their house renovation business then with thoughts of starting a family. A throwaway comment by Pete regarding the possibility of adopting a five year old child and skipping the messy pregnancy and baby bits leads Ellie to look into fostering seriously. Whilst Pete may not be convinced at first, photographs of children in the foster system convinces him that it is also the right thing to do. But their plans to foster one child snowballs into fostering three troublesome siblings, teenager Lizzie (Isabela Merced) who is plainly angry at the world and everyone in it, shy and constantly apologetic Juan (Gustavo Escobar) and little Lita (Julianna Gamiz), who bosses around her dolls and only wants to eat crisps for every meal.
What follows this fostering is the chaos of suddenly bring three children into a home where there has never been children before, trying to understand their wants and needs whilst trying to get them to fit into the traditions of the extended family. We see the expected; fights, arguments, mayhem and breakages, whilst seeing Ellie and Pete coming to blows with disapproving family members. And it’s all genuinely enjoyable and at points, genuinely funny. Yes, Ellie and Pete clearly bite off more than they can chew with these three children, but they do what others in their foster parent support group are unable to do, and that’s foster and care for three children together. Of course, there are conflicts with the children not used to a family structure, and there are curve balls, but the point of this film is all about the coming together and working it all out.
Whilst the heart of this movie comes in the importance and heartfelt messages of family, it isn’t without it’s moments of complete comedy. Whether that’s a family meal going horribly wrong, an unexpected reaction to Christmas morning or the children working out how to get anything they want out of their new grandmother, you will laugh at the chaos of it all. The cast put in impressive performances, with a lovely role as social worker Karen for Octavia Spencer, the voice of positivity and smiles when up against fellow much more negative worker Sharon played by Tig Notaro. We see real moments of sensitivity from Wahlberg and Byrne as Pete and Ellie, and that is something that creates such a good balance between the heart and the laughs.
The three children in the roles of Lizzie, Juan and Lito are wonderful performers, creating characters that you cannot help but love even though they all have their issues and their moments of sheer madness. You feel for them with all that they have been through and you really want to see the new family with Pete and Ellie work out because through watching the film to find yourself wanting what is best for these three siblings.
Suitable for family viewing with older children, Instant Family is heartfelt and funny, perfectly bringing together important messages with comedic moments and brilliantly shining a light on the sadly often forgotten fostering and adoption systems.