It’s easy to be blasé about child adoption from developing countries – especially since celebrities make it so easy and effortless. In this Norwegian movie by Arild Andresen, Handle With Care (Hjertestart) centres around Kjetil (Kristoffer Joner) who struggles with the lack of connection with his adopted son, Daniel (Kristoffer Bech). Kjetil and his wife Camilla (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) adopted Daniel from an orphanage in Colombia years ago. With Kjetil’s work in an offshore rig, he didn’t have enough opportunity to build a relationship with his adopted son. So when Camilla passed away unexpectedly, Kjetil is confronted with the challenge of raising Daniel all by himself, causing him to contemplate and justify ‘returning’ Daniel to Colombia …
In this sensitive story, the movie tiptoes around the issue quite skillfully without the story sounding too preachy or sentimental. We get to sympathise with Kjetil as he struggles to be a single Dad, dealing with a bed-wetting son. We also feel helpless looking at Daniel, who clearly craves for a relationship with his Dad. This movie presents the challenges of adoption without excessive sugar-coating on how ready the family are in providing an opportunity for a child from a developing country, and how life could have been, if he or she were to be left in the home country.
It could have been grittier and punchier, but I get it that the subject matter is sensitive on its own, and that it has to be treated carefully. The director certainly has achieved that with actors who carry the story well with them. Both Kristoffer Joner and Kristoffer Bech are excellent as the central characters in the movie. At the end of the day, children are not tradable cargo – they cannot be returned if the ‘purchase’ is considered unsuccessful. They need to be handled with the utmost care.