The Atlantic

The Private Worlds of Parents Raising Children Radically Different From Themselves

The documentary Far From the Tree argues against holding parents responsible for their kids’ cognitive or mental-health struggles.
Source: Sundance Selects

To what extent should parents be held responsible for who their children grow up to be? That’s the question raised by the new documentary Far From the Tree, which explores the lives of children who are somehow radically different from their parents. The movie is an adaptation of Andrew Solomon’s 2012 nonfiction book of the same name, and features him prominently. Solomon’s reporting, including the book, aims to understand how society decides which hereditary traits and conditions are considered illnesses and which are considered identities. The film, directed by Rachel Dretzin, tightens its focus to the home.

Solomon’s book, inspired by his struggle as a gay man born to parents who believed homosexuality was immoral, follows dozens of families., which is now in theaters, follows just five families: That of Jason, a 41-year-old man with Down syndrome; of Jack, a teenager with severe autism; of Loini, a 23-year-old woman with dwarfism; of Leah and Joe, a married couple with dwarfism who give birth to a daughter of average stature; and that of Trevor, a young man who’s incarcerated because in 2010, at age 16, he murdered an 8-year-old boy.

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