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’Adult Adoption’ review: Dir. Karen Knox [Glasgow 2022]

by Kat Hughes

Written by lead actor Ellie Moon, Adult Adoption is a wickedly smart comedy drama (in the same vein as Juno) that proves it’s never too late to come of age. Coming-of-age films typically tell the story of either a teenager boy or girl growing through an emotional journey. Their end state is different to their introduction, as in some way, they have become forever changed. These stories take place during the teen years as this tends to be when most people make the transition from child to adult, although Karen Knox’s Adult Adoption highlights that this isn’t always the case. 

Rosy (Ellie Moon) is a hard-working bank employee, a young woman who, to the outside world, appears to be fairly together. She’s a little intense and can sometimes be awkward, but she always has a smile and a polite thing to say to those she meets, and is excellent at her work. However, underneath her functioning veneer hides a woman in emotional turmoil. Having aged-out of the foster care system at eighteen without ever bonding with a family, Rosy is adrift in the world, with no roots to tie her to anything. Whilst she is full of crippling anxiety, on advice from a work colleague, Rosy signs up to an online service that matches lonely youngsters with potential parental figures. And so begins Rosy’s journey of self-awakening.

Adult Adoption shows the emotional effects and turmoil that a life in the foster system can create; it’s careful not to perpetuate the stereotype that all former foster kids become broken drug-addicted criminals. These stereotypes are addressed via Rosy’s co-worker Helene, who, on learning about Rosy’s background, instantly begins Googling foster care statistics. Helen insists that Rosy was ‘one of the lucky ones’ and ‘you could never tell’, pushing the stigma that many out of the system have to face. Rosy vehemently pushes back against Helen’s beliefs about the system, repeatedly having to reiterate that she wasn’t abused in any way during her time, unlike what many of the statistics may indicate. Adult Adoption isn’t concerned with treading through the typical tropes, and instead shows that, whilst Rosy’s body has survived the system intact, her mental wellness has nonetheless taken a beating. The lack of parental care has left her at a disadvantage as she has an inability to form healthy connections with those around her. This compels her to form unhealthy fixations with older colleagues, and to even hug a complete stranger in her desire for closeness. It’s a tragic story, but Adult Adoption does offer up some hope as it explores the different ways that one can feel loved, and how that love doesn’t always have to come from a familial unit. 

Having written the part of Rosy, Moon is the best person to put her onto the screen. The intimate knowledge of the character makes it hard to know where Rosy ends and Moon herself begins, as Moon inhabits her wonderfully. There’s a stiffness to Rosy’s movements that points to some of her issues far earlier than they are revealed. It’s a subtle element of Moon’s performance, but one that easily communicates how Rosy doesn’t quite fit in with those around her. As the story progresses, Moon breaks Rosy slowly down as her experiences challenge and change her. Moon also proves herself to be great at demonstrating her inner child; Rosy’s unbridled excitement and joy at certain situations are straight out of the teenage girl handbook. 

The production and costume design are perfectly constructed to reinforce how Rosy got stuck in that transitional phase. From her desk at work, to her apartment, Rosy lives in a childish world of pink, fluff, teddy bears and glitter. Her accouterments are most commonly found living in the room of a tween, and by saturating Rosy’s environments with these elements they reflect her inner vulnerability and naivety. Rosy’s clothes continue to communicate the idea of someone much younger, as Rosy is forever sheathed in bright pastel hues. Even the soundtrack, full of candy-sweet energetic and youthful songs, screams it belongs in a movie with a much younger protagonist. All these cleverly thought-through components combine to accurately replicate everything that one might expect to find in a traditional coming-of-age tale, the only difference here being the age of the lead.  

From a narrative standpoint, the overarching story itself is unusual enough to hook the viewer. Like Rosy herself, there are plenty of little oddities within the narrative; one subplot in particular adds a simple strangeness to the piece. This inclusion pushes Adult Adoption firmly out of any social drama realness, and allows further elements of humour to work. Were there not to be such moments of amusing weirdness, some of the darker plot points would remain too bleak. Instead, they break the tension and allow Knox to have a little fun in these serious instances. For example, a late-night liaison is played for (uncomfortable) laughs, though it could play as frightening in an alternative setting. More humour comes from the series of Rosy’s ‘dates’ as part of the Adult Adoption process; her traversing of the circuit quickly starts to resemble the same minefield as modern dating.

Ellie Moon’s script and performance shine in Karen Knox’s fantastically constructed world, which makes Adult Adoption a real breath of fresh air. A perfect example of how you’re never too old to come into your ownself, and a wonderful example of how some of us get stuck along the way. Adult Adoption is well on its way to become this era’s (slightly more grown-up) Juno

Adult Adoption

Kat Hughes

Adult Adoption


A breath of fresh air, Adult Adoption proves that you’re never too old to come of age. 


Adult Adoption was reviewed at Glasgow Film Festival 2022. 

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