Instant Family embraces the instant chaos that comes with adoption and parenthood
Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne's new family comedy keeps the messiness of parenting refreshingly real.
Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Margo Martindale, Octavia Spencer
November 16, 2018
The popular narrative surrounding older-kid adoption is one of saintly parents saving lucky, grateful and totally endearing kids—think Orphan Annie. But Sean Anders’ new comedy Instant Family tells another story. When Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) wonder if something’s missing from their married life, they trade a dreamy flow of date nights for the rollercoaster of parenting three school-age siblings from foster care—the eldest a so-not-impressed-with-these-losers teenager named Lizzie (Isabela Moner). As Pete and Ellie grapple with mood swings, meltdowns, food fights and a terrifying visit to ER, they wonder if they’ve made a big mistake.
Instant Family is an adoption story that’s darkly funny and refreshingly raw, revealing the messy—and lovely—truth about what happens when virtual strangers take a leap to form new families. It’s about time we see a relatable, perfectly imperfect family like theirs on the big screen. Here are some of the major parenting truth bombs this movie drops:
Parenthood is hard
Pete and Ellie are all of us, as they chase mini bathtub fugitives down the hallway and try to coax a demi-smile out of their surly teen. No matter how you formed your family, sooner or later your kids will locate all your emotional buttons—and they won’t be afraid to push them.
Kids aren’t always cute IRL...
Lizzie’s younger siblings, Juan and Lita, are just the sweetest in their adoption profile photos. But once all three kids move in and start putting their insta-parents to the test, Pete and Ellie fantasize about pressing the Escape button. Kids scream. Kids fight. Kids climb onto roofs and take ten years off their parents’ lives in a matter of minutes. And none of that is ever reflected on any parent’s cute and curated Instagram feed.
...And teens aren’t always terrible
So Lizzie will barely say two words to Ellie—other than “Pretend Mom”—but she’s also the most caring big sister you’ll ever see. And in the moments when this whip-smart 15-year-old lets down her guard with her foster parents, she shows a vulnerable sweetness that makes everything so worth it.
Your nightmare in-laws make the best grandparents
Ellie and Pete’s parents drive them nuts—each in their own special ways—but those overbearing parents become a saviour as grandparents, especially when the kids decorate grandma’s face with indelible markers.
Everyone is trying their best
It’s easy to jump to conclusions about other parents, but as Pete and Ellie discover, their foster kids’ birth mother, who has a troubled past and prison record, loves her children and will always be important to them.
Where Instant Family gets it right is showing that parenthood—particularly in the context of adoption—is never black and white. It’s a multi-hued jumble of love, heartbreak, missteps, joy, horror, fear, and (when you least expect it) laughter. Family life—it’s (wonderfully) complicated.
Instant Family is a film for every type of family.
Related or not, we all have people in our lives who we call our family. This is the perfect film to watch with those you love (and love to hate) the most. Don’t forget to SHOW-off your SCENE card while you’re at the theatre for a chance to win instant prizes and a grand prize of 100,000 SCENE points. Click here for details.