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Antwone Fisher

(2002, Washington)
A film with an African-American cast

"Who will cry for the little boy, Antwone?"
"I will. I always do."

Crying, burning, trapped, hurt, dying, trying... those are some of the words that the titular character uses to describe his situation in this film. Antwone Fisher grew up with no parents, rejected by every level of society, including the ones that took him in. He came "from under a rock", he claims at one point. A retort used as much as a defense but also as a cry for help. Because as much of a front as these kids-turned-teens-turned-adults try to put up, they're ultimately alone and helpless.

This film follows the events that surround Fisher (Derek Luke), a Navy sailor that is sent for a psychiatric evaluation with Dr. Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washington) after yet another violent outburst against another sailor. But Fisher says there's nothing wrong with him, or at least that's the front he tries to put up with Davenport when we all know he's just a boy trapped inside a man. The film follows the typical motions of other similar films, with Davenport standing strong beside Fisher, as he eventually opens up to reveal his troubled past; a past that involves abuse of all kinds.

When my wife and I started the process to take in and eventually adopt our two sons, we were allowed to bring them home for a weekend; a weekend that went surprisingly well given the circumstances. Upon returning them to the foster home, this 6-year-old kid clung to my wife as we were about to leave as if there was no tomorrow. This kid, who barely knew us, who we had only met on 3 or 4 previous meetings was bawling, crying uncontrollably begging us not to leave him and his brother. I probably will never be able to get that image out of my mind because it perfectly captured how much absence of love and care, how much need is in this kids.

Fast-forward 2 years and we obviously have them with us, adopted and safe. I can listen to them playing, happily screaming and hollering in the room next door as I cry writing this. Has it been an easy road? Hell, no. I've seen them both crying, "burning", "trapped", hurt, "dying", trying... Much like Antwone, our older kid is prone to violent outbursts and there have been days where things have gotten... rough. Things that sometimes we haven't even shared with our families. But I like to think we've been able to join them in their pain, help them with their scars, and cry with them. I like to think that, unlike Antwone's real and foster family, they can count on us being there.

I struggled with writing this because the film obviously hit close to home. I tried to write from outside, but there's no escaping it. As is expected, Fisher and Davenport develop a bond, and they both help each other overcome their own issues. There are some script issues as far as Davenport's personal struggles go, but Fisher is able to find closure by reuniting with his real family. It's inspirational. It's uplifting. But the scars are there. I know. I've seen them and felt them. And for every Antwone that manages to find his Davenport, and find closure, there are hundreds, thousands of others that don't. For every I.J. and I.J. that finds us, there are many others that are still out there looking for someone to cling to, someone to love them. Who will cry for them?