The film was titled Goodnight, Mister Tom. On the back of the DVD case, the synopsis was general enough for me to announce that I wouldn't take it personally if the family vetoed my offering once we got underway, and we each nestled hopefully into our spots on our big couch. Our story appeared to be a classic and familiar one: an old man has grown bitter, selfish, and cynical over the years, then suddenly has a child in need thrust upon him. We giggled with the squirming struggle of discomfort as each found themselves in a relationship of necessity. We have seen and heard other stories like this; however, when the boy (Will) has to confess that he has wet the bed during the night, we began to sense a deeper conflict at work. And when the old man, Mister Tom, instructs the boy to remove his wet things, the camera's angle showed us what cannot be seen yet by the older gentleman - the marks of abuse on the child's back. Our hearts jumped in pity and I gasped, and what began as a movie night of entertainment quickly shifted and drew us in to care and feel for the wrongs mankind does to one another, and the power we have to minister to each other and be changed in the process.
This is a film that many adoptive families will be able to identify with, although you should preview it to best judge if your child is prepared to see, wrestle with, and discuss the issues raised. At one point, Will is called to return to his mother in the city, and her disturbed and sick treatment of her son and newborn child is very disturbing. Overall, however, this is a story of hope. It should serve as a catalyst for conversations about mental health, abandonment, abuse, trauma, healing, love, and transformation. These are subjects many of us must wrestle with, personally, or alongside our children. Goodnight, Mr. Tom was a timely surprise, and a gentle tool to work hope into the lives we live.