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Off and Running (2009) - Movie Review

A Coming of Age Documentary

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Off and Running (2009) - Movie Review

Avery Klein-Cloud prepares for a race, and Avery with her adoptive family

First Run Features
The plots of narrative coming of age features often exploit teenagers' raging hormones and explore the high jinx that are fueled by them. In contrast, Nicole Opper's coming of age documentary is a serious study about an adolescent's search for her personal identity.

The film's central character is Avery Klein-Cloud, an African-American teenager who lives with her adoptive parents -- two gay white women, and their other inter-ethnic adopted children. Avery is smart, sensitive and well-adjusted. She does well in school and she's a talented track competitor. But she has a prevailing curiosity about her roots.

Who Is Avery?

Avery's life and lifestyle -- and the documentary -- take a dramatic turn when she decides to find her birth mother. Supported by her adoptive parents and siblings, but filled with personal doubts and anxieties, she begins her search. The film keeps you in suspense about where Avery's investigation will lead her -- so no spoilers here.

Avery is a very engaging and sympathetic subject, and her story, with all of its unusual circumstances, is captivating.

In telling that story, Nicole Opper shows her superior storytelling skills. She unfolds Avery's story in a very moving way and deftly presents a specific view of adopted children's concerns, interracial family life and gay parenting. And, without ever spewing statistics or using graphs as illustrations, she extends our considerations to include concerns of children around the world who've been displaced from their birth mothers because of natural disasters, terrorism or for whatever reasons.

Don't expect anything shocking from the film. Avery's drama is real, but actually, in contrast to the circumstances of many other children who've been displaced from their birth families, Avery lives quite a privileged and comfortable live with loving and intelligent adoptive parents who provide for her needs, encourage her to excel at school (it's a Jewish school, in fact, where Avery stands out as the only black student) and support her efforts to find her birth mother and explore her heritage. The film's strength is that it is purely observational, and Opper never resorts to manipulation or sensationalism.And, so, Avery comes of age.

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Film Details:

  • Off And Running
  • Director: Nicole Opper
  • Release Date: January 29, 2010 (limited)
  • Running Time: 76 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Country: United States
  • Location: Brooklyn, New York
  • Language: English
  • Production Company: Independent Television Service
  • Distribution Company: First Run Features

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