The word “salvage” is not a pretty one. It always involves someone making the best of an undeniably bad situation. We salvage valuables after a fire, flood, or natural disaster. The Lost and Found Family reminds us that sometimes human lives need salvaging as well.
In this sentimental story of second chances, Esther Hobbes (Ellen Brye) was happily married to a wealthy man for thirty years when suddenly she found herself widowed and penniless. Her friends evaporate, her assets liquidate and all she has left in the world is a pile of clothes, three porcelain dolls and a dilapidated old home several states away. When her taxi pulls up outside the “Old Boarding House,” its current residents – Tony and Ramona and their five foster children — are understandably resentful of this “rich lady” who has come to evict them. In reality, they need each other more than they realize.
I watched this movie shortly after seeing America , the Lifetime Channel movie starring Rosie O’Donnell -– which frankly may be too much stark reality for most families. By comparison, The Lost and Found Family is the heartwarming family-friendly version (rated PG for certain mature themes) of life in a foster family – for every tear, there is someone to wipe it or hug it away. Frankly, I wish that were the case . . . and I’m hoping that, by watching this film, more families will be encouraged to invest themselves in the life of a foster child.
In some ways, the film paints a much rosier account than many foster families experience. The kids in the cast of this movie are undeniably cute; despite their troubled pasts they are remarkably well behaved. My favorite was little Crystal, who hates her own name but figures out in the first five seconds of the movie that Ester’s dolls (Lilac, Olivia, and Violet) spell “LOVE”. The foster parents, Tony and Ramona, are generous and kind (Ramona bears a striking similarity to Rosie O’Donnell). Even at their worst — such as when the teenage girl hands her pills over to her brother for safekeeping, and their little brother accidentally ingests some of them — the consequences of such bad choices are often much more drastic in real life.
I was most intrigued by the main character, Ester Hobbes (Ellen Bry), who added such dignity and grace to the film. Ellen was kind enough to talk with me about the development of her character. When I first saw the movie, Ester’s plucky “can-do” attitude bothered me — how could a pampered society girl endure such profound loss with such calm, patient optimism?
“[In playing Ester Hobbes], I wanted to look at some of the overall themes that were part of her journey,” says Ellen. “The more she divested herself of material goods, the more she let go of her fears and opens up to change and to God. As her faith and trust in God awakens, the more she can let go, the more love comes into her life. Forcibly removed from her protected, insular, cushy life as a suburbanite in a little bubble, she is thrown into a completely foreign situation. She has to learn how to survive in an alien territory. She decides to go with the idea that her husband must have had something in mind… God closes one door and opens another.”
We find evidence of this in a message Ester’s husband left her on his last seconds on earth: “What impresses the eye is never apparent at first glance. But shut them, and see what lingers there, seared on the retina. …How you linger, year after year on my closed eyes, in the unprotected space of my heart. In the whites of your eyes glow dark, flickering promises like hallucinations on the edge…”
These flickering promises, banked on the hearth of her soul, sprang to life only after the ashes had been ruthlessly, unexpectedly blown away. Only then could she fulfill the unspoken promise her husband had seen in her. Jesus said it best, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
The Lost and Found Family is directed by Emmy-nominated television and film producer Barnet Bain (What Dreams May Come, The Linda McCartney Story ). The DVD debuts nationally on September 15, 2009. Groups specializing in outreach to teens, the bereaved, or anyone needing to come in from the margins will find a rich story and grounds for important conversations. Any family will find The Lost and Found Family an evening enjoyably spent. The film retails for $24.95, and is available at the movie’s website or wherever movies are sold.