A scene from "Stuck." (Handout )
The documentary "Stuck" makes a cogent push for adopting needy children from Third World countries but presents such a bleak picture of the maze-like adoption process it may discourage more viewers than it inspires.
That's not to say the film, directed and co-shot by Thaddaeus Scheel and narrated by Mariska Hargitay, isn't an involving and moving portrait of devoted parents and their rescued children. But somehow, a seeming lack of conclusive answers or solutions to a complex global problem makes "Stuck" feel more like a work in progress than a completely baked depiction.
Still, Scheel's stirring, empathetic tracking of three U.S. families' long and winding journeys to bring their adoptive children home to America from Ethiopia, Haiti and, most problematically, Vietnam, shines much-needed light on a system widely hammered by governmental disarray, a lack of political will and inexplicable amounts of red tape.
As a result, countless orphans end up, as the film's title so aptly puts it, "stuck" between a birthplace unable to effectively foster or sustain them and the eager new parents largely restricted — or seriously delayed — from embracing them.
Unfortunately, vague sound bites here from such U.S. lawmakers as Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) and former Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), plus a dearth of input from foreign officials, only ups this sad situation's stranger-than-fiction quotient.
"Stuck." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes. At Laemmle's Claremont 5.