Movie Recommendation: Instant Family – An Intense Subject Made “Entertainment-Friendly”

Instant Family isn’t your typical movie that will make you laugh or cry hard. It doesn’t take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Typically, only those films that make you laugh, cry, or think hard about or deal with emotions that mankind finds baffling are recommended. But movies that we can enjoy with our entire family and yet understand what the makers are trying to tell us by hiding behind comedy so that it doesn’t get emotionally heavy for us are often ignored. I thought why not give this fun film the attention it deserves?

At times, you miss going on an emotional ride while watching Instant Family but every film doesn’t have to be a tear-jerker while dealing with subjects like adoption. If you can just go with the flow and simply enjoy a good story, then Instant Family is for you and your family. 


Instant Family is Pete and Ellie Wagner’s story. A young couple who decide to adopt kids first bring home kids to foster. Now the catch is that Karen and Sharon, who run this initiative, take classes for parents to mentally and emotionally prepare them for parenting before they meet the kids at a foster fair. During these classes, they tell the adoptive parents that becoming siblings to these kids is easier than becoming parents as siblings are always easier to connect and relate with. With that sales pitch, they want adoptive parents to also consider teenagers as they are often ignored and left in the cold. 

Convinced that teenage kids would be a better option than babies as this is their first time being a foster parent, they decide to adopt Lizzy, a 15-year-old who they meet at the foster fair. As they make up their mind, Karen and Sharon inform them that this young girl comes with two more younger siblings, Lita, a 6-year-old girl and Juan, a 10-year-old boy. This means the couple now has to take home three kids. The good thing is that they don’t back out. 

Once the kids are home, the trouble begins. One shouldn’t forget that these kids come with a lot of baggage as they have been jumping from foster home to foster home. They had had bad experiences in the past. While Lizzy is being difficult as she still hopes to reunite with their mother and go home permanently, Lita is a stubborn kid and Juan, a vulnerable and ‘always scared’ child. Juan even cries in sleep. They haven’t put forth any disturbing details about his nightmare or personality, though. It’s left to the audience to understand what these kids go through in their life till they find a loving home. 

As the movie progresses, Lita and Juan accept Ellie and Pete as their parents but Lizzy, who still waits to meet her mother and becomes more difficult to talk to after she meets her, keeps herself away from getting emotionally attached to this new set of parents. 

The entire movie focuses on the bond the couple struggles to form with the kids and how slowly, while overcoming their own battles, the kids get emotionally attached to Ellie and Pete. While all is going well, Lizzy writes a letter to the court highlighting the mistakes this couple has made while caring for the kids and how they should be handed back to their biological mother as she has been out of the prison and is no more addicted to substances. 

The biological mother gets custody while Ellie and Pete decide to let the kids go. What happens next is heart-warming to watch. 

Not emotionally manipulating the audience throughout the film was absolutely ok but this one scene is where I felt the performances, direction, and writing – everything should have stepped up. This is where the audience should have bonded with the characters but that doesn’t happen here. It starts very soon and ends very soon. Also, I think the Director should have paid extra attention to the connection building between Ellie and Lizzy. The performances of these two ladies were also not up to the mark. At places, performance-wise, both Rose Byrne and Isabela Merced look least interested (as Ellie and Lizzy). 

If the performances would have been captivating, the movie would have gone to another level. 

Still, all in all, it’s a good one-time watch. More so, for the story it tells than anything else. 

Streaming On: Netflix

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