'Off and Running' will have audiences up and applauding

AA Film Fest feature touches on identity, family, growing up

by Jessica Carreras

If the trend in TV and movies lately is to portray gay and lesbian characters without focusing on their orientation, "Off and Running: An American Coming of Age Story," showing Saturday as part of the Ann Arbor Film Festival, is at the top of its class.

The film, which follows Avery Klein-Cloud, her Jewish, lesbian adoptive parents and two also adopted brothers of different races, focuses on the inner workings of a modern-day family rather than on the fact that Avery has two moms.

And that's a good thing.

Avery is a typical teen in most respects: focused at times on her running (she's a gifted athlete) and her schoolwork; rebellious at others, searching for her identity and missing entirely the fact that she already knows who she is.

Viewers will yearn to shake some sense into Avery, and spend just as much time sympathizing with her disconnected family.

Her story, however, is not uncommon to adoptive kids. Avery reaches out to her birth mother, only to receive a few measly and noncommittal letters before being cut off - again. She struggles to find balance between her mostly black friends and her white, Jewish heritage - trying to teach her friends Hebrew but insisting to her moms that she get her hair properly braided. She says of her family,

"I don't feel like they understand who I am or the world that I'm in right now."

Indeed. Avery drops out of school, stops coming home and ends up pregnant by her loving but in-over-his-head boyfriend. But this story isn't a stereotype. She takes her own path to discovering who she is and what she wants, and her mothers' extreme understanding of the situation makes us feel the same way: that Avery needs to figure this out for herself.

"Off and Running" will be showing at 5 p.m. March 27 at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor. Tickets: $9. For more information, visit http://48.aafilmfest.org.

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