This sickly sweet family film about a childless young couple mysteriously finding themselves the new parents of a smart little orphan offers nothing new over the films it borrows from, however, with a tale this innocent and good spirited it’s impossible not to adore. Foster will surely be a warm blanket on a winter’s night to many families as we near the festive period.
Toni Colette and Ioan Gruffudd play Zooey and Alec, a couple struggling to conceive a child most likely, it seems, due to post-psychological effects of a not so distant trauma the two are yet to overcome. They both consider their options before quickly deciding that adoption is the way to go. Visiting a foster home ran by none other than Hayley Mills, their interview goes well enough but a series of strange happenings occur after their departure that brings 7 year old Eli to their home. Dumbfounded, the couple check that all is legit before gladly accepting the youngster into their lives. Eli is to say the least, ahead of his age; watching CNN and showing interest in Tolstoy’s literature, it takes a little bit of work for Alec and Zooey to help Eli act his age, something he’s happy to do when urged.
Foster works as a kind of Mary Poppins turned on its head; here, Eli is the larger than life personality with a magic like quality whose presence breathes zest and understanding into the lives of these two adults. Zooey struggles with her relationship with her mother as well as being visibly most affected by the past trauma the couple share. Alec is also battling to keep his business, left to him by his late father, from going under due to the intense changing market and recession. With Eli onboard things soon get underway and the family unit is strengthened, feelings are come to terms with, and a little fun is had along the way to seeing the couple content once again.
With a fine performances throughout and Maurice Cole as Eli being an obvious highlight, as well as small turns from seasoned Brits Hayley Mills and Richard E. Grant, there is plenty to enjoy in this uplifting (if not overcooked) story that doesn’t shy away from harsh emotions such as grief. Though it’s often unclear whether writer/director Jonathan Newman had an adolescent or adult audience in mind as the drama far from seamlessly delivers the goods to both sides, sometimes feeling like a child’s idea of an adult drama, it’s doubtful that both sides won’t get a kick out of Foster.
Foster is out on DVD November 5th.