Far from the Tree

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Far from the Tree Movie Poster Image
Touching docu about parents raising uniquely different kids.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 93 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about importance of empathy and compassion in parenting -- understanding that kids won't necessarily be/act like their parents or even like anything parents expected. Promotes tolerance, acceptance of differences, whether physical, emotional, or regarding identity. Also reveals that so-called sociopaths or criminals don't always come from a fractured home.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Solomon is a champion of families in which there are notable differences between parents and kids. He is a proud gay man and husband/father despite, earlier in his life, trying to please his parents by attempting to "cure" his gayness. All of the movie's main subjects offer examples of how differences don't have to be negative. People of all shapes, sizes, abilities can live fulfilling, joy-filled lives.

Violence

Discussion of the brutal murder of a child committed by a teenager (the murderer is one of the children whose parents are followed in the documentary). Also stories of discrimination, sadness, worry, and fear.

Sex

Discussion about sexual feelings and sexual orientation. A man explains how he tried to "cure" his homosexuality (which his parents considered an illness at the time) by seeing female sexual surrogates. Brief shot of people kissing in the background at a conference. A married couple embraces and kisses. A woman says her husband used to joke "I like your 'ism'" as a euphemism for her curves/butt/hips.

Language

Infrequent; includes "ass," "oh my God," "oh my gosh," "stupid."

Consumerism

Brief glimpses of outerwear like the North Face and Patagonia and movies like Frozen, which one person watches a great deal. Also glimpses of Toshiba, Nike, Purell, Sesame Street.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Champagne toast at a wedding.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Far From the Tree is a moving documentary based on writer Andrew Solomon's best-selling 2012 nonfiction book about parents who are raising children completely unlike themselves. The film follows various parents and children (some adults, some still underage) who have dealt with various differences (dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, sexual orientation, social-emotional issues) that can add unexpected dimensions to parent-child relationships. There are a few mature conversations about parenting, the ways children/people with differences are perceived and treated, and the lasting damage that can be done to kids if their parents can't find a way to accept, help, or support them. Expect a few quick glimpses of couples kissing, as well as a champagne toast at a wedding. One family also discusses their child who, as a teen, murdered an even younger child.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bygowan6482 July 31, 2018

Far From the Tree

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What's the story?

FAR FROM THE TREE is a documentary based on writer Andrew Solomon's best-selling nonfiction book Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity. Directed by Rachel Dretzin, the film follows several families in which parents are raising children who are utterly unlike them, whether it's because of a disability, a genetic difference, a different sexual identity, or other characteristics. For example, Jason is in his early 40s and has Down syndrome. As a kid, he was a poster child for proving that kids with Down syndrome could learn and outperform expectations (he was even on Sesame Street), but as an adult he has trouble differentiating between reality and fantasy (he's in love with Elsa from Frozen). Jack is a nonverbal teen with autism who speaks with the assistance of a computer. Loini is a lonely 23-year-old little person who's very close to her mother and finally comes out of her shell at a Little People of America conference. There's also Trevor, who's never seen because he's in prison for committing a horrific crime. Solomon himself provides a through line, discussing his own troubled relationship with this parents (especially his mother), who didn't want to accept that he was gay.

Is it any good?

This poignant, compelling documentary effectively adapts Solomon's book about parents struggling with the reality of raising children who aren't necessarily what they expected. Far From the Tree isn't intended to answer too many questions, but it clearly and proudly promotes tolerance, acceptance, and love. While some of the case-study families are more riveting than others, they're all interesting enough to keep audiences rapt. If anything, moviegoers may wish there was a deeper dive into some of the cases, particularly Trevor's. But this isn't a crime-based documentary, so it's understandable why the film widens its focus.

The adult children in the documentary are particularly interesting: Jason, who's 41 and has Down syndrome, and Joe, who is a little person, are completely unlike their parents, yet they each have incredibly close bonds with them. (Joe's story is particularly compelling; it shows how he and his wife not only found each other but also become parents to a child they will love, whether the baby is a little person or not.) Jason's mom makes it clear that she's disappointed he didn't continue to be the renowned role model for people with Down syndrome that he was as a younger child/adolescent, but Jason seems fairly happy to live with his two best friends and re-watch Frozen. Solomon's own tale is moving, especially because there are still so many LGBTQ+ kids who feel their parents don't accept or love them. Maybe they could all sit down and watch this film together.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages in Far From the Tree. What is the filmmaker (and the author) saying about parents and kids? Why is it sometimes hard for parents to accept that their children aren't like them?

  • Who, if anyone, is a role model in the movie? What character strengths do they display? How is empathy important to the story?

  • What are the movie's messages about tolerance, acceptance, and diversity? Do kids have to look and act like their parents to fit in with them? What can parents do to make sure their children feel loved no matter what their differences may be?

  • Does watching the film make you want to read Solomon's book? What more do you want to know about these families?

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