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One previous review named inktastesbitter accused Susan Tom of
exploiting the foster-care system and being in it for the money. I
can't believe this. There are many, far easier ways to make money than
having a 24/7 job caring for special needs kids. We can speculate
whether Ms. Tom is, in caring for so many children, trying to fill some
unanswered psychological need of hers. But that is surely pointless
since the good she is doing seems to me undeniable.
This is a marvelous, provocative film that deserves the widest audience possible. I am a college professor of philosophy. "The human condition" is of course one of the subjects of philosophy; I show this film to my students for all its insights into the joys, challenges, and heartbreaks of the human condition
Anthony lost his battle to cancer. He died last week. The family is
very sad, but Anthony was so very, very sick. He is in a better place
now and not in so much pain.
The film really does show Anthony's true self. He was a sweet, loving kid who never complained. He had a wicked sense of humor and was stoic about his disease.
There will be a memorial service in Fairfield sometime in January. Susan and the rest of the kids are doing as well as can be expected. Everyone is just so very sad.
As far as the film, I would recommend it to almost anyone, though I think it would be too upsetting for some children. And Susan has lost so much weight since the film was made. Too bad people can't see how great she looks now, and how much more energy she has.
If not for bumping into the filmmaker at another SXSW Film Festival
screening, I would have dismissed this as potentially a tear-jerker freak
show. The synopsis did not grab me. Mr. Karsh did--he is as passionate
his subject matter.
Don't make the mistake I almost made--see this and prepare to meet some of the most indelibly etched characters life has ever created on screen. HBO/Cinemax has apparently agreed to pick this up for showing in late 2003/early 2004 so you should have a chance to see it there, but I really hope it finds release on DVD.
Karsh creates and incredibly moving portrait of a family like no other, built on the solid foundation of one amazing mother. With an engaging, suspenseful dramatic arc that could not possibly have been scripted, the film shows laughter, fear, anger, rage, love, frustration and difficult resolution. As in any family, there are no easy answers to life's daily challenges. With unique access and a "cast" of dreams, it is an absolutely unforgettable slice of life that should make each of us aware of how much we have for which to be thankful. Part documentary, part cinema verite, it is 100% engaging till the last frame. See it and prepare to meet the Toms.
Never have I watched a film that I have felt has seriously changed my outlook on life or made me want to go on-line and write a comment on it like I am now. Director Jonathan Karsh created a wonderful film, but what's more is that it's real. This isn't a Hollywood script; it's the story of a caring lady and her life as a mother (Susan Tom) of 13 adopted children with various mental and physical disabilities. The personalities of the children come alive in the movie. Once it starts, you all ready feel like you've known this family for a long time. It really does make you look at your life and realize that your problems are nothing compared to the problems these kids and Ms. Tom deal with everyday, yet they live their lives full of laughter and love. Very gripping and touching film.
This film is so painful to watch, but you must. What an indictment of our society and how little we value children. It doesn't take a documentary in a third world country, when there is plenty of horrific child neglect in the richest country in the world. Why should Susan, the heroine of this story, a mother who adopted upwards of 13 significantly sick or disabled children, be such an anomaly? Such a curiosity? Why isn't the system giving her and her children every possible support and resource they need to make their lives livable? I will never be able to shake this story off, nor do I want to. Especially with the epidemic of childhood neuro- and immuno- disorders that have erupted over the last decade or so, thanks to the U.S. pharmaceutical industry and the CDC who cavalierly allowed mercury to be used to prolong the shelf life of the multitude of vaccines our children are required to have from their first hour of life.
Susan Tom is a truly amazing person, as are the children in this
documentary. Jonathan Karsh is to be commended for directing this
Each child has been through different medical illnesses and disabilities. We see Joe, who goes through attention seeking behavior, and the social worker who attempts to work with him. Also his biological mother, her issues, and her drug addiction. This is only one story of the many. Anthony with his skin disease; Faith with third degree burns. Xenia, a paraplegic, with an amazing spirit, and lust for life.
Interesting is the scene where Susan's parents visit, and can only stay for a short time, feeling it is too much to take. They note that Susan used to work in a hospital as an R.N., and was always taking care of others. She is truly a blessed person.
It is amazing to see how different people deal with hardship. A film like this forces people to look within, and see their own reactions, analyze how they have treated others. Susan Tom, adoptive mother of these special needs children, is an amazingly strong person who has given these children hope, a home, and love they may never have had. I have never seen such a documentary as this, and hope Jonathan Karsh will produce more of these.9/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Susan Tom is a hero. I don't know of any one who would willingly adopt
11 kids, a majority whom are special needs. The children to the outside
world were looked at as different, but this documentary caught their
true selves. There's Margaret. A dream daughter. Her life is school and
helping her mother and doing it willingly. There's Anthony, who
recently passed, a sweet 19 year old boy with EB, who went through a
life of pain but seemed full of spirit. There's Joe, who also passed,
who had cystic fibrosis who pushed his family away because he loved
them too much to get attached if he left. There's Xenia, born without
legs but born with happiness and comfort. There's Hannah, who also has
no legs but is born to have fun. And there's the adorable Faith who has
burn scars all over her face that doesn't mask her intelligence. I
forgot the names of the other ones, but are children that anyone would
Susan goes through up and downs in her life. From Joe's mood swings and illness, to Anthony's pain and illness, to Faith being teased, to Xenia getting a boyfriend, to Margaret's home and school depression, to Joe's biological mom moving away, then ultimately to Joe passing away from his illness, after her daughter Susie, who also had EB, died years before.
Then at the end, the family gets together and celebrates Anthony's 20th birthday party.
The family goes from bad times but doesn't let that get in the way of the good to come.
From the words of Faith. "Everybody's gotta have faith!" Rest in Peace, Anthony, Susie, and Joe Tom.
Effective documentary about a marginalized woman (Susan Tom) who is
raising some of the most unfortunate but extraordinary children you
will ever encounter. Some are severely burnt (Faith). One has cystic
fibrosis (Joe), and a bunch of complex personal problems. Several are
limbless. The list goes on. The children are a handful, but Susan's
unlimited reserve of strength and compassion is what has given these
children meaningful lives.
Susan isn't always depicted beneath her saintly halo. In one scene, she, like any human being, loses her patience with her birth daughter and comes across as harsh. In others, she fights exhaustion. The film is about Susan, but it is also about her charges and their own personal struggles to simply survive. Some of the episodes we're shown are pretty heartbreaking and one boy's struggle to live (Anthony) is so horrible you can only marvel at his tenacity.
The film has a no-nonsense tone and never becomes too tabloid or too much of a freak show (which would have been highly inappropriate under the circumstances). Director Jonathan Karsh sprinkles a little visual poetry on the pictures and employs an occasional voice-over.
Strong stuff. And fascinating.
... "Wow!" Such a simple three-letter word, but it appropriately sums up what I felt about this documentary. What an inspiring, intriguing and interesting story of Ms. Tom and those precious children. I admire her strength and heart to adopt so many special needs children! I highly recommend this film to people of any age, ethnicity, religion or socio-economic background - especially those who are considering adoption as an avenue to have a child (or children) as new editions to their existing family. If you take the time to watch "My Flesh And Blood," be prepared to ride on a roller coaster of emotions. Take a box of Kleenex with you before you strap yourself in!
It helps to have such great screen presences. The mother, Susan is a great
center for the story and for the audience's benefit. Perhaps with the
existing footage shot over the year-and-a-half, there could be a series
out of this. I would like to see more of some of the children who were not
featured very much due to reasonable constraints.
Woven in inspiring, dramatic, comedic and tragic scenes, this is a powerful piece of film. And you can't help coming out of it full of hope, sadness, and understanding. This movie is a celebration of life at its physical roughest and as deep a love as imaginable.
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