Found: Netflix Movie Review

Documentaries are a perfect format to see real-life experiences of others, to hear their voices, and watch as they formulate their thoughts. Documentaries offer a great opportunity to either gain a greater understanding of a situation or to put ourselves in someone else’s situation. As a person who is part of the adoption community, I felt the emotions of each person shown in this documentary. Found, unlike other adoption documentaries, shows a unique angle to the adoption search theme that is rarely seen. The question it asks is, “What was to become of them?”

On this cinematic journey, Found, we follow three young ladies: Chloe, Sadie, and Lily. The young ladies are separated by faith, family structure, and geography. We meet them at pivotal, yet mundane, teenage moments.  At first, the only common thread seems to be that they are all adoptees from China. However, there is more than meets the eye. DNA tests uncover that these three young ladies are cousins. They have never met because they were adopted from China by different families. Luckily, technology allowed them to meet and experience the commonalities of their shared experience.

To fully understand their story and Chinese adoptions, one must have some knowledge of the history of China. China only allowed one child per family between the years 1979 and 2015. It is believed that 150,000 Chinese children, the majority girls, were adopted by families from other countries. Chloe, Sadie, and Lily were a part of that 150,000.

Wonder and Whys

Wonder is one of the linchpins of adoption. The questions that linger from an existence that a child does not remember can weigh heavy on an adopted child. Like many adopted children, Chloe wondered about her biological family. Her curiosity led her to initiate the search for information via the DNA test, 23andMe. There, she found the biological connections she was not expecting. 

Found juxtaposes the adoptive parent sharing family pictures with an adopted child as a way to tell her about her family, when all the child wants is a connection to her biological family. These moments show the longing on both sides. The adoptive parents long to ensure their adopted child feels connected and knows that this too, is their family. While the child longs for a connection to the family he or she never knew.

Given that each cousin is being raised cross-culturally, their wonder and search for connection are often palpable. During the film, Lily has a health issue with her jaw caused by a genetic issue. The word genetic mentioned as part of her diagnosis brings up feelings that go far beyond concerns over having to undergo surgery. Instead, she realizes that the surgery will change something about her that was passed down from her parents.

The cousins collectively decide they want to learn more about their birthplace and their adoption stories. They decide to visit China to address their wonders and seek answers to their questions. Although this was a group journey with their adoptive parents, you quickly realize that each young lady has an individual story and different things that are looking for. Part of learning the information about their adoption story is facing the “whys.”. Why was I adopted? Why couldn’t my birth parents raise me? Why don’t I live in my birth country?

The Search

In Found, the cousins hired a genealogy researcher before their trip to China. Her diligent, yet delicate, manner in which she approached the girls and their search gave the film an additional layer that was unexpected. She provided a level of knowledge and history that filled in the gaps.

Like many adoptees, what each girl was searching for was similar—but still unique and personal. Two of the girls wanted to find their birth parents, while one did not. But, they were all looking for a sense of belonging and some type of closure.

Their search evolved into a journey. They got to experience their culture and people who looked like them—which was different from the life they led in the states. Some of the most compelling stories were within the search. For each of the 150,000 children placed for adoption, there were birth parents. We learn that many birth parents in China have been deeply impacted by their decision or the government’s policies that ended their parental rights. It is a clear depiction of the ripple effect of adoption; as one of the girl’s moms says, “The process of adoption is grieving.” The filmmaker takes us into the pain and the mustard seed of hope a search can cause. 

Hidden Points of View

As in most human interactions, there are many points of view. Adoption is no different. The perspective people are used to hearing is one of the adopted children and the biological parents. However, in this film, we get to hear about the impact of adoption from the perspective of what I would consider unsung heroes, the nannies.

I remember visiting the orphanage where my daughter was being cared for. I marveled at the nannies and how well they cared for the children. As an adoptive parent, you are grateful that there was someone to stand in the gap when you couldn’t be the family your child needed. We rarely hear this perspective and step of the process within the adoption world. Once again, it raises the question, “What becomes of them?” What becomes of the nannies who care for the children who are in between their current situation and their future? 

Nanny is more than a noun; it is a verb. It is genuine love and care in action: the feelings and memories they have for the young lives they care for never dissipates. Often, we don’t realize that, even though some children are adopted at a young age, there are missing pieces, memories, and stories. It was clear that nannies are more than caregivers, they are caretakers of the child’s history. 

The documentary shows us that expectations can be elusive. Sometimes, what you are looking for is not what you find. But what you do find, you learn to appreciate and treasure.

If you subscribe to or have access to Netflix, Found is a film you should definitely add to your watchlist.