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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Losing Isaiah
Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal
Paramount Home Video 03/95 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R - drug related material, brief strong language

In Losing Isaiah Margaret Lewin, a white social worker in Chicago, adopts Isaiah, a black baby who was found in a cardboard box on the street and assumed to have been abandoned by his mother. Three years later, inner city resident Khaila Richards emerges from a drug rehabilitation program free of her addiction to crack. With the help of a zealous lawyer who wants to set a legal precedent and believes "black babies belong with black mothers," she goes to court in hopes of having Isaiah taken from the Lewins and returned to her, his birth mother.

Director Stephen Gyllenhaal draws out emotionally affecting performances from the two leads, Jessica Lange and Halle Berry. The screenplay by Naomi Foner ("Running on Empty") probes the nature-nurture elements of motherhood, the racial questions at the heart of the case, and the tricky question of serving Isaiah's best interests. Even though this film's finale is very idealized, it effectively dramatizes the clash of ideas and ideals in contemporary courtroom adoption cases.


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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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