Written by Diane Tillis
Like Dandelion Dust is a compelling drama that focuses on the complexities of parental love towards a child. There are two families at the center of the film. The Porters are a blue-collar couple that gave their newborn up for adoption after struggles with domestic violence and alcoholism. The Campbells are a privileged couple who raised the newborn as their son for six years in a loving, nurturing environment. There is no distinct hero or villain in Like Dandelion Dust. Each character has their distinctive strengths, weaknesses, and flaws.
Like Dandelion Dust is based on the novel of the same title by Karen Kingsbury. I have not read the novel, so I cannot say exactly where the differences occur. I do know the film alters some details, but it also makes the religious Christian influences less apparent. I would say this is in an effort to make the film more appealing to a wider audience. Like Dandelion Dust is a family-friendly film with no nudity or profanity. However, there are mentions of domestic violence and alcoholism.
The first scene of Like Dandelion Dust opens to the rundown home of the Porters. Police officers arrest Richard “Rip” Porter (Barry Pepper) for domestic battery against his wife, Wendy Porter (Mira Sorvino). During the seven years of his imprisonment, Rip went through alcohol rehabilitation and anger management. The time taught Rip how to be a better man and how to be a better husband. Rip talks about his wishes for their future and the desire to start a family. However, Wendy tells Rip a great secret that will change their lives. Seven years ago when Rip went to prison, Wendy discovered she was pregnant and gave the child up for adoption. Together they decide to find their son and bring him back to their home.
Jack Campbell (Cole Hauser) and Molly Campbell (Kate Levering) are devoted parents to six-year-old Joey (Maxwell Perry Cotton). Joey loves to play baseball and to sail. Even though he lives a privileged life, Joey has grown up to be a bright and cheerful child. One ordinary day, Jack and Molly get a tragic phone call from their social worker. Joey’s biological parents are seeking custody. They do everything they can think of to keep their son, even calling in a favor to a Congressman. The legalities of the case make it impossible for the Campbells to keep Joey. They must shatter their son’s world and give him to unfamiliar people.
The Campbells and Porters discover the true meaning of being parents through the struggles they endure over the transition period. The Porters try to connect with Joey through a new treehouse and card games. The Campbells revert to desperate measures. Jack breaks the court order to see Rip, and offers him a million dollars for Joey. A fistfight ensues. Upset after the fight, Rip buys a bottle of alcohol, and his life begins to spiral downwards. Wendy and Rip decide they are not ready to be parents. They need to focus on healing themselves before they bring a child into their family. Meanwhile, the Campbells decide to go with Molly’s sister and her family on a missionary trip to Haiti. While in Haiti, they plan to leave secretly for another foreign country to keep Joey from the Porters. Molly’s sister discovers their plan and reports them to the social worker.
Back on U.S. soil, Molly and Jack wait anxiously in an airport interview room. Allyson Bower (L. Scott Caldwell), the social worker for Joey’s case, enters the room with Wendy. Wendy says they will not take Joey from the Campbells. Wendy just wants Joey to grow up knowing that he has two moms. One mom that loves him so much, she could not let him go. The other mom that loves him so much, she had to let him go.
I can almost understand why Like Dandelion Dust is appealing to the judges handing out awards at film festivals across the country this year. It has a clear message, with a good script, and great acting. Barry Pepper, Mira Sorvino, and Maxwell Perry Cotton are amazing in their character portrayals. However, the story is very clear-cut and you can see the finale coming a mile away. This film will appeal to fans of the novel and some families.