I am SO EXCITED to finally write this spoilers review so we can all gab together about this movie and the various slight oddities in it.
Whole plot in two paragraphs:
A nice decent white couple, John and Summer, are looking for a surrogate in India. Summer lived in Delhi for years and understands the culture. They want a private surrogacy arrangement, they are turned off by the usual brokers. They explain the situation to the driver they have hired, Pankaj Tripathi, who is sympathetic because he and his wife have also struggled to have children. He offers to help them find a nice healthy young woman who will be well-paid. They pick out Kriti, a dancer and daughter of a singer who dreams of going to Bombay to be an actress but needs money. Kriti agrees, lies to her parents that she has a performing job, moves in with her best friend who lives in the Muslim neighborhood of town, and Pankaj is around and helping both of them through the pregnancy. John and Summer are back in America but heavily involved through calls and photos. And then they return to India for the 5 month check up and learn their baby might have Downs Syndrome. Summer freaks out and drags John away, they abandon Kriti. The doctor suggests an abortion, but Kriti refuses. Pankaj takes her back home where they lie to her parents that Pankaj is her new husband and the father of the child. Her parents struggle but then accept and are excited about the baby. The baby is born, pure white, and everyone is stunned by it’s unusual beauty. Kriti’s friend offers to raise the baby for her while she goes away to Bombay, Pankaj’s wife shows up and the truth comes out and Kriti’s parents understand and Pankaj’s wife is also ready to take the child. But Kriti decides she loves this baby. She gives up her dreams and stays in the small town to raise the child. Who turns out to not have Downs Syndrome after all, the test has a margin of error.
Years later, after the baby has been loved and kept safe by this large unusual extended family his whole life, John and Summer show up again. John says that Summer never recovered from walking away from the baby, she even attempted suicide, and then they saw a video of Kriti and her white son dancing together and knew their child was healthy and alive. They threaten lawsuits and Kriti agonizes, but then decides to give her son up to save him from a long legal battle they can’t win. At the last minute, they go to meet John and Summer and hand off the baby, and John tells them they don’t have to. Instead, he and Summer met and fell in love with a little girl at an Indian orphanage. They are taking their daughter home, and leaving Kriti with her son.
What this movie does is strip away all the “what will people think” concerns. That is my favorite part of the film. John and Summer don’t talk about being ashamed of using a surrogate or anything like that, they just explain the situation. Kriti agrees to the pregnancy because she likes them and it is good money and a good thing to do, she thinks. After the baby is born, everyone is ready to raise this white child of an unmarried mother without any concern for society. Yes, sure, people will talk. But who cares?
Instead, the concerns revolve around “what do you feel, deep inside, unrelated to what is happening around you?”
John and Summer are a nice couple who clearly love each other and want a child. They discuss their situation calmly and logically, Summer even speaks Hindi. It’s important that they are non-Indians to explain how they can so utterly disappear from Kriti’s life. And to explain how her son looks so noticeably different. But beyond that, there is no difference between they and Pankaj and his wife. The first conversation establishes that, both sides see a universality to the desire for a child.
Kriti is a silly teenage girl, but she also is truly excited about doing this for John and Summer, the adventure and the challenge of it. And she takes the pregnancy seriously, looks after her health, handles the mood swings, all of that. That blind confidence and jumping into a situation is very young, but she does the right thing once she commits. Everyone does the right thing, Pankaj doesn’t abandon her and neither do John and Summer. Everyone treats each other with respect as fellow humans.
And then the moment when it all shifts, when Summer learns the baby might have Downs. This is the part I found most specific to India in the way the pressure to abort is handled. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, which means a woman’s right to choose NOT to have an abortion as well. In the Indian context, forced abortions are a daily tragedy. In this case, it is the medical issue, Kriti’s youth and aloneness, the abandonment by John and Summer, all of these reasons that cause her doctor to recommend abortion. And Kriti takes a stand and makes up her own mind in an instant. As is her right, as is the right of any woman.
You see Kriti’s panic in that moment and confusion, but not on this one decision. That’s universal as well. My favorite moment of Badhai Ho was the same thing, the doctor recommending abortion and the woman saying “No. I know myself, and I know I can’t do that”. If a woman says “No. No abortion, I am sure”, that should be the end of the conversation. It’s her decision and it is up to everyone else to work with that decision.
It’s perhaps a little easy that Kriti’s parents end up accepting her pregnancy, that her best friend is divorced and ready to raise the baby, even that Pankaj’s wife shows up and accepts the baby too. But I will allow it, this is a movie after all. And I find it honestly believable. Babies are magic. They come along, and people pull together and make it work somehow and forget why they were upset in the first place. The important part is that, once again, it all rests on Kriti’s decision. She has the option of, essentially, adoption. She knew she wanted to carry this baby to term, but does she want to give up her life and raise it? And slowly, over weeks, she decides that yes she does.
The slogan of Planned Parenthood is “Make Every Child a Wanted Child”. And I think that is what we see in this movie in the last part. Kriti’s family isn’t rich, they are still stuck in a small town in India, but this child is very much loved and wanted and that is all that matters. That’s all a child really needs (besides basic nutrition, also important). When John and Summer show up, ready to take “their” child back based on biology, on wealth, on western resources, it is all meaningless. They weren’t there when things got hard, they didn’t have enough love, so they aren’t really family.
I like the message of “biology is meaningless, a child is your child” that comes with the biological child staying in India and John and Summer adopting an orphan instead. But I HATE the lesson that John and Summer get to adopt an orphan!!! You know they screen for these things, right? If Summer had been pregnant and they had privately decided they could not handle a baby with Downs and she had terminated the pregnancy, fine. But walking away from your biological fetus and the woman carrying it? NOT FINE!!!!! This couple should not be allowed to have children! If the little girl they adopt ends up developing diabetes or something, are they gonna just walk away again?
I guess all of those things I am thinking are what makes this a good movie! We can use it as a jumping off place to talk about what makes a family, what makes a parent, what makes a good life for a child. Big universal questions. There’s no “message” exactly, there’s no problems without solutions to agonize over, just a nice story in which people struggle to figure out the right thing to do.
At the end of this, I found myself really really wanting a Hollywood remake. And then just wanting a remake for everywhere. This is a universal story. Young lower income woman hired to be a surrogate, biological parents abandon her, she and her family raise and love this child, and then the rich biological parents return. What happens next?
I loved everything about the film except the ending. I didn’t want Kriti to give up her son. She was so gutsy about everything else, why not him? I guess I was supposed to sympathize with Summer, but I didn’t like her, didn’t want her to “win”. And the whole last minute adoption thing was contrived.
Here’s the ending I like: Kriti sends the couple to Hell and keeps her child. A few weeks later, she gets two things in the mail, the couple’s lawsuit and a letter from a famous director who saw the boy and wants to put him in a movie. He becomes a huge child star, makes tons of money, Kriti hires a handsome young attorney and wins the case. Big closing dance number outside the courthouse where handsome atty puts the kid on his shoulders and Pankaj smiles knowingly. Bollywood!
Yeah, the ending wasn’t good. I understand she wanted to save her son from a long trial and suffering, but Summer and John are bad people , not suited to grow a child. He doesn’t even want his son, he is just doing it for his wife.
YES! That little boy would have been so miserable and messed up living with the crazy emotional white people, instead of in his big loving cobbled together Indian family.
On Tue, Aug 31, 2021 at 12:27 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
I was kind of thinking along the same lines as you, I knew the surrogacy rules in India have gotten tighter and tighter over the years, I wanted Mimi to take them to court, do a whole publicity campaign, rile up the Indian public and government, and get the laws changed to protect her. Really anything besides “I guess I have to give in and they will be good parents”. They will be TERRIBLE parents!
On Tue, Aug 31, 2021 at 11:06 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
I don’t think that the message of Kriti being willing to let her son go with Summer and John was for us to sympathize with Summer. I think she’s a fairly unredeemable character, walking away when the diagnosis came in. And I think that Kriti was thinking about protecting her child from undue stress…she made the decision to not fight once she heard he would have to testify. She chose the path of protecting him in the big picture and that’s probably the strongest choice a mother can make.
But i agree that the last minute adoption seemed contrived, and agree wholeheartedly with Margaret that NO ONE WHO ABANDONS A SURROGATE BC OF A DOWNS DIAGNOSIS SHOULD BE ABLE TO ADOPT. I’m an adoptive mother myself and I was put through the ringer over every life choice before I was approved. But maybe India is different. Plus I don’t personally resonate with the desire to have a child who is mine by DNA, adoption was my first choice for being a parent. So yay Kriti, boo Summer, but overall I really enjoyed the film. I think Kriti’s best performance to date.
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One ending I was kind of hoping for was Summer learning that Mimi was giving up in order to save her son from stress, and it making Summer realize that Mimi was the “true” mother because she put her son first, always.
But Summer is SO horrible!!!! Along the same lines of “should not be allowed to adopt”, she was suicidal!!!! Mental health is a continuum, many people recover from depression, etc. etc. But this woman had just attempted suicide within the past few years, directly related to parenting issues! Maybe don’t give her another kid? That little girl deserved sooooooooooooooo much better.
I was thinking about it, and I think there would have been a way to have the same general outline and make the parents redeemable. Angie in a comment below describes how the Marathi version does it (mother’s marriage falls apart, she had arranged for an orphanage to take the child). But I was thinking, really we just need the biological parents to disappear so Mimi is on her own making decisions, and then reappear again. What might have worked a lot better was some sort of illness/accident. They go back to America, they are in close contact by phone, and then they fail to show up for the 5 month check. Mimi can’t reach them, she doesn’t know what is happening, the doctor recommends abortion and she decides against it. And then years later they show up again and explain that they were in a car accident on the way back to India, by the time they were able to communicate and call the clinic, there was a misunderstanding and they thought she HAD had the abortion. Only now, years later, have they learned that the pregnancy went to term and they have a child.
That would be a real conundrum, having lost contact with the surrogate through no fault of their own and now knowing that another woman is raising their child. If that was the ending, I would have been happy for them to adopt the little girl. But as it is, NO!
On Tue, Aug 31, 2021 at 11:45 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
I read some reviews and people have issues with this movie. I liked it, it was a good watch. The only part I didn’t like and that I found fake and rushed is the abandomnent. I can’t believe Summer and John could run away from Kirti and the baby so easily. No further test, no doubts , no “we should discuss it”. The marathi version did it much better, because there it was only the woman who really wanted the child. She stayed with the surrogate mother in India while the husband was at home. Later he stopped receiving her calls and letters, and she knew deep inside he has left her. So when she also heard the baby is disabled it was too much. Raising a disabled baby all on her own was too hard so she left. But before leaving she made the arrangements in an orphanage. She didn’t left surrogate mother alone without even informing her, like this stupid pair in Mimi.
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That is SO much better! The Down Syndrome test, it’s what that whole check up is about! Surely that is something they should have thought of, what they would do if their baby wasn’t “perfect”?
I find it believable because I read Summer as severely unbalanced and John as drawn into her fantasy. They are BAD people, Summer who runs away and tries to block out anything that isn’t perfect, and John who enables her. But if that is what happened, DON’T GIVE THEM ANOTHER CHILD!!!! Absolutely have them pause, discuss, consider, come up with an alternative. But just abandonment? That’s not parent material.
On Tue, Aug 31, 2021 at 12:51 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Mimi seems to be a very positive movie when it comes to Indian people (not wealthy but rich in love and caring) and not so positive about those coming from the West (wealthy but lacking emotional depth).
I like positivity in a movie but I dislike biais. I fancy your idea with the accident, Margaret…
It’s very sympathetic to the non-Indian people and they aren’t evil exactly, just a little unbalanced and unthinking.
On Wed, Sep 1, 2021 at 12:39 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
I watched this last night and I really liked the movie up till the ending where the white couple came back and tried to take the kid away. John and Summer didn’t deserve to get a child of their own.
But i did really like the family they created with Kriti, Shama, Kriti’s parents, Bhanu, Bhanu’s wife, etc.
Yes!!!! I loved the “twist” of everyone just accepting and loving this child without regard to how it came to them.
On Wed, Sep 1, 2021 at 9:36 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Yeah! I was expecting the conflict to be that someone in the family group wouldn’t accept the child not that the parents would come back.
I was the one confused about the timeline, possibly because tall women, like Kriti, don’t usually look so big at 5 months, especially for a first pregnancy. And as Kriti was a dancer, with strong stomach muscles she would have started showing even later than average. I mean there would be a bump at 5 months, but a bump, she wouldn’t have looked like she was about to pop. And I also don’t understand how they wouldn’t have used a blood test at 11 weeks to discover Downs.
The white couple walking away was inexcusable, but they had assumed she aborted the child. Plenty of parents have had abortions, that is not a reason to disallow them to adopt. Past suicide attempts have been reasons not to allow people to adopt in the U.S., but biological children are not taken from someone who had a past suicide attempt. So I think the idea that they shouldn’t have been allowed to adopt another child is complex. Would growing up in an orphanage be better for that little girl than growing up with loving parents, even if one had mental health issues? And I think the father’s inability to empathize outside of his own family is a bigger mental issue than depression. I think a child is better off with a loving family, even an imperfect loving family, than an orphanage. So clearly I am going against the DCIB grain here.
I liked that the Summer actress made her character seem more mentally unstable than evil. And I hated that her husband seemed like a paper cut-out unable to think of anyone but his wife. I thought that the focus on the money in their relationship with both Kriti and the driver was well done, especially as it seemed at first as though the white couple may have thought there was more of a relationship than there was, where the Indians were more interested in money. And with the White people just abandoning the Kriti it became clear that the white idea of a relationship is a pretty shallow one.
They did say that John and Summer had to go and wouldn’t be back for 4 months. So maybe we were supposed to understand all the doctor stuff only happened while they were there? Which is dumb on their part, but would fit in with their general sort of denial attitude towards potential complications.
I’m trying a thought experiment of translating the situation to a biological father abandoning a biological mother. If a father thought the woman had an abortion and never bothered fo follow up, that would be scummy but possibly understandable depending on the situation. But he for sure can’t show up 5 years later and TRY TO TAKE HIS CHILD AWAY!!!! He can show up and say “I want to be part of their life, but it is up to you what that looks like and how it happens”. In this case, first they were adult people who should have had the maturity to reach out to Mimi later and find out how she was doing, even if they assumed she had terminated the pregnancy. And second, they DEFINITELY had no right to try to take this child away!!! Sure they could say “we want to be part of his life however we can”, but you don’t get to just take him away!
Someone having an abortion in the past should be allowed to adopt, even someone who had the situation in this film and the surrogate ended the pregnancy should be allowed to adopt. I think what bothers me is that they made such a clear commitment to Mimi, and had such obvious responsibility in the situation, and they just walked away. That worries me that they don’t have what it takes to stick around as parents when the going gets tough. And I think the one thing you and the rest of us can agree on is, even if that little girl in the Real World had no other option, she DESERVED better parents. Does that make sense? Yes, this is a better life than an Indian orphanage, but she DESERVES an even better life than that. There was one moment I thought should have been looked at more. Summer takes Raj away to play with him with the new toys, enjoying the game. But she leaves him outside the gate and Mimi is the one who notices and grabs him before he is hit by a car. Summer wants the pretty fun part of motherhood, but can’t seem to process the responsible part of it. Very similar to her walking away from Mimi when her baby might not be “perfect”. It makes me very nervous for that little girl.
Yes to the Summer actress! I thought she was phenomenal as an actress. That slight desperation and eagerness was present through out, her focus on somehow guaranteeing a “perfect” child, the way her husband was always ready to please her, made her turns of character totally believable, this was a woman who was slightly unbalanced through out.
Thank you for bringing up the money aspect. I found that really interesting. If we were watching this movie from the side of John and Summer, we would be laughing at the Indian people who just want money. But watching it from their side, yes the money is important, but they are still human beings. Pankaj would not have offered to help if he had not sincerely sympathized with their situation. And Mimi would not have either if she hadn’t trusted them. John and Summer didn’t seem to realize that these were people with their own thoughts and needs who wouldn’t always go along with what was convenient for them. I really liked the moment when Pankaj confronted them. And they seemed both surprised and weirdly dismissive.
Years ago I read an interesting People (best magazine!) article about surrogacy. And there were a couple of situations similar to Mimi, where the biological parents just walked away. So I think it’s not just a white people thing, I think it’s a class thing? They hired this woman to do a job and then they changed their minds and “fired” her as they thought of it. And it was left to the surrogate mother to find adoptive parents and deal with the whole thing on her own.
I should say I know at least one couple who had a surrogate and it was a mutually supportive open relationship, with no issue. But it is a situation that can be fraught with abuse.
On Wed, Sep 1, 2021 at 1:34 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
This discussion reminded me about a real adoption story I heard some times ago. Polish television made 3 documentaries about the case. I think I may mentioned it already.
Back in the 90′ there were 5 siblings in a polish orphanage. Nobody wanted to adopt them together, but one day an american couple appeared and wanted them all. It was like a miracle. They adopted the kids and they all went to US. There the first problems emerged, and after 8 monts first from the brothers was sent away. Shortly after, his sister was left in a mental asylum. Then another son went to american orphanage. 2 remaning kids (the most docile ones) were sent away when the mother become pregnant with her own son. Now, after years almost all of them agree they would prefer to remain in Poland
Ugh, that’s so HORRIBLE!!!! I hate stories like that. People suck.
On Thu, Sep 2, 2021 at 11:08 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
AH CLASS! Of course it isn’t just the cultural differences happening here, it is how people treat servants! The white people seemed like they were trying to treat their driver and surrogate like humans, but they treated them as silly unsophisticated humans whose problems in no way equaled their own.
I was in no way defending the couple’s actions when talking about their adoption of the little girl. But I would need to know more about what happens to little girls from that orphanage who DON’T get adopted before I challenge their right to adopt. And as Angie brings up with the Polish adoption fiasco the idea of adopting outside of your country is problematic in and of itself! In truth it is not hard to adopt in the U.S., but there is a higher risk of heartbreak for the adoptive family as the biological parents have rights. So parents have an incentive to adopt outside the country to protect their family, but their very incentive is that foreign biological parents often have less rights. That sounds horrible, but if someone took my child away from me, even if it was not my blood child, at eight months… well that isn’t something you “get over”.
And a Native father in the U.S. did show up over 2 years later and took his daughter away from her adoptive family. Legally he could do it. Emotionally I thought he was a bit of a monster, though I would have totally supported visiting rights.
EXACTLY! That’s why I think this movie is so translatable and would be so FASCINATING in literally any culture. Because every culture has class in their own specific way. It could just as easily be made in America about a wealthy upperclass family who hires someone their driver knows as a surrogate and then skips out on her. Or not even driver, like the receptionist at their doctor’s office, one of those really subtle American class distinctions.
Ugh, adoption is so SCARY for just those reasons! I mean, look at this movie. She gave birth to this child, raised it, and still had the risk of the biological parents coming to take it away from her. I don’t know the ins and outs of the Indian laws, but I know there ARE ins and outs. Because they have to balance the many children in need of adoption, with the risk of them being sent overseas to terrible situation. One nightmare story that comes out is little kids “adopted” from orphanages by seemingly perfect loving couples and ending up as child slaves all over the world. But if you limit international adoptions, they stay in the orphanage. There’s no easy answer.
Have you watched the Disney TV show Andi Mack? It’s kind of an interesting healthy take on this question, the heroine discovers that her older sister is actually her mother and her parents are her grandparents when she is 13. She and her mom slowly get to know each other in this new way and eventually move across town but everyone stays in close contact with each other. That’s healthy!!!! You can reconfigure these relationships, if you are just slow and careful about it.
On Thu, Sep 2, 2021 at 11:51 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Oh, yeah, the adoption thing bothered me too, because John and Summer are terrible people but also because you can’t just stop by an orphanage on your way to airport and pick up a baby! (I have a friend who is married to an American man of Indian ancestry. She adopted an Indian girl as her daughter and said it was very difficult and would have been impossible without the Indian connection through her husband).
But more than that, why did they reinforce the whole “white people get to go to India and get/abandon kids on a whim!” thing? The whole movie seemed to have that message.
THANK YOU! I had a vague memory of hearing about a friend of a friend who had to, like, establish residency in India before she was allowed to file for adoption. And this was an Indian heritage couple, they were living overseas and had to move back for like 2 years before they could be considered as adoptive parents.
Of course, this is John and Summer, they probably just bribed everybody.
On Thu, Nov 11, 2021 at 2:18 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote: