“Off and Running”–a diverse family

“Off and Running”

A Diverse Family

Amos Lassen


Avery is a Brooklyn teenager. She is African-American and the adopted daughter of two white Jewish lesbians. She has two adopted brothers, one is mixed race and the other is Korean. As Avery matures, she wants to know more about her real roots and she decides to contact her birth mother which only leads her into a world of confusion as she begins to explore her identity, he race and her family. It seems as if her life is falling apart but Avery manages to put it back together again and in the process she learns who she is and the results are inspiring.

We have had so many coming-of-age stories that it began to seem that there was nothing new to be seen but Nicole Opper, the director, gives us, this time, a coming of age story that looks at race through the struggle of a very different kind of American family. Avery is a regular, typical Brooklyn teenaged girl who lives in a melting pot which could never be called typical. Her family is loving but she has a great deal of curiosity about her African American roots and when she decides to contact her birth mother, she begins a journey of identity and race. The more she explores, the more she wants answers and the further she becomes estranged from her current family. She eventually drops out of school and leaves home. She feels she is displaced–being a Black student at a Jewish elementary school did not help her discover her self-worth. She has Black friends but it is her journey that consumes her.

A letter she received from her birth mom is what caused Avery to put her plans to go to college on a track scholarship on ice. Her adopted mothers support her desire to learn more about herself but even after a trip to Austin, Texas to her real family’s home, she becomes more confused and instead of being comforted, she feels lost especially when all communication from her real family stops. The film shows us just how important it is to know ourselves before we can decide where our lives are headed. He film begins by looking like it is going to be a heartwarming portrait of a non-traditional family but it quickly becomes an illustration of the problems in a family of that kind. We see Avery as an understandable example of adolescent anger and angst and self-pity but she has great confidence even though she is totally vulnerable. In the end she seems to be getting herself together and getting back on track. What an amazing look at non-traditional America and what a girl we have in Avery. Congratulations to director Nicole Opper for this beautiful gift.

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