Closure documents a touching story about the side of adoption that we normally don't see.
When Bryan Tucker filmed his wife Angela’s journey of searching for her birth family, he didn’t think he’d later be making it into a documentary for public viewing. But, as he has mentioned in many interviews, he soon realised that he had the unique opportunity to portray a side of adoption that we don’t usually see. Closure does just that, giving us an insight into the world of closed adoptions, and the problems that often arise as a result of them. While Angela admits that she hasn’t yet gotten closure in relation to her family, the film shows her receiving many of the answers to her questions, and will particularly resonate with adoptive children and families.
Angela was given up for adoption by her mother as soon as she was born, and went into foster care with a couple who spent hours caring for her special needs; born with very tight limbs, doctors suspected she had cerebral palsy and may never walk. A year later she was adopted by the Burt family and thrived under their care to the point where not only did she walk and run, but she also developed her talent at basketball. This very talent helped her meet her husband Bryan, and the two are happily married. Nevertheless, growing up, Angela had questions about her birth family and where she came from – a desire to know her roots. As Bryan and her family support and encourage Angela in her search, we follow her to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where her birth certificate says she was born.
The ride is something of an emotional rollercoaster for us: our spirits lift as we see her meet her birth father, “Sandy” Bell, a well loved man in the area who has always wanted a child but never knew he had one, and we’re crushed when her birth mother Deborah initially denies knowing who Angela is. But Angela has the tenacity and determination to keep learning about her relatives, and so gets in touch with more of them, slowly discovering a family that never knew she existed. These events don’t make this documentary, however, and alone would not have half the effect that they do – the interspersed interviews with Angela and her family are to thank for this. They capture many heartfelt moments of honesty, especially through featuring some difficult admissions – in particular, it’s not easy at first for Angela’s adoptive family to understand her need for this search. One family member asks if her adoptive parents are “not enough” and Teresa (Angela’s adoptive mother) admits to a fear of being replaced.
Tucker’s composition may rely on sundry fragments pieced together, but these interviews are where he does the story justice; by involving us in every stage of the process, we realise alongside her adoptive family that this is just something Angela has to do, and it doesn’t mean she loves them any less. One of the biggest lessons Closure teaches us may indeed be that adopted children often want to find their birth parents regardless of how much they love their adoptive parents. Interestingly, Angela mentions in an interview that she wishes to challenge the “cover” many people use of saying they want to find their birth parents for their medical history – she believes that people need to learn and accept that in the world of adoption there often isn’t a specific, logical reason for these searches. These emotions that are brought to the surface are the kind of thing that those of us who are not involved in adoption don’t – and perhaps won’t ever – fully understand, but will certainly strike a chord with those that are.
Nevertheless, Closure is a poignant documentary that will be interesting for all to see, regardless of whether or not they are involved with adoption – it clears many myths, it challenges our preconceptions, and most significantly, documents a touching story that is as relatable as though we were personally involved. While it may not be the most riveting tale on screen that deals with adoption (Despicable Me might have the corner there), it is hard even for us outsiders not to feel like we’ve gotten to know Angela and her family and to share at least partially in their sorrows and triumphs.