The diagram of a 90s adoption dilemma is sketched: a black single mother, white adoptive parents, lawyers and social workers dedicated to their causes.

LOSING ISAIAH

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


"Losing Isaiah" tackles the wrenching dilemmas of adoption. With the days long gone when secrecy was seen as the operative imperative, adoption has turned into a minefield of emotional issues, many of them explosive, all of them complex.

In this case, Khaila (Halle Berry), a drug-using mother, discards her newborn son in a garbage can. Luck brings him into the arms of Maggie (Jessica Lange), a social worker, and her husband Charles (David Straithairn), who fold the little boy into their family with all their love.

When Khaila returns to sue for custody, Isaiah becomes the focus of a bitter battle that is rife with questions of race and parental rights. She is guided by Kadar Lewis (Samuel L. Jackson), a black rights advocate and principled ideologue who has access to cause money that allows Khaila to dress and live the part of the reformed mother she has actually become. She is the center of Lewis' crusade. "Black babies belong with black mothers; I'm not going to let you do anything to mess that up," the lawyer warns his fragile client.

Maggie and Charles are represented by a dutiful black lawyer whose heart, we suspect, may lie with the other side. Maggie, who has seen all this before in her work, is blindsided by the injustice and raw emotion of losing the child she has raised.

The diagram of a '90s adoption dilemma is sketched: a black single mother, white adoptive parents, lawyers and social workers dedicated to their causes. All that remains is to drop the right actors into the slots. We are in luck because Jessica Lange and Halle Berry breathe real life into the formula as the mothers. Fueled by their fine acting, the movie is a significant contribution to exploring the bewildering social question that adoption has become. It's an earnest film with a single theme, a good one if the subject suits you.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 334
Studio : Paramount
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h46m


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