Writing became an alien skill for me during lockdown, concentration gone, distracted by almost everything and agitated, worried, brain foggy. When I did manage to find a quiet corner (two teenagers homeschooling, partner working from home) I’d check BBC News compulsively, tap into the anxiety sharing on twitter. If only I could just write for an hour and be absorbed in a different world I knew I’d feel calmer but it didn’t happen. I had big ideas that felt solid until they slipped through my fingers like melting ice lollies, messy and spoilt, piles of hand written notes scribbled all over tables, piling up and up. Undeveloped, Uninspiring. Ready to be recycled.
I was saved by Daughter – a short film I’d written before lockdown that was already developed, we’d had a reading and now there was an incredible female team on board making it happen, planning, zooming, when lockdown was over we could shoot.…I started re-writing, a skill that can happen in small time slots, I lost my confidence in creating a new story but these characters are stuck in my head and this story I need to tell…
“Amee arrives unannounced to look for her birth mother, Miriam. She plucks up the courage to knock on the door and the woman she’s been thinking of all her life, answers…. The past is painful to unpick. And then teenage mum Belle turns up, (Miriam’s younger daughter). Belle knows nothing about Amee’s existence and Miriam tries to keep the sisters apart…. after the truth comes out, Amee walks out. She has the truth, that’s all she came for. Amee watches Belle storm off down the road, taking her baby with her. Suddenley, Amee feels a pull towards her biological sister. Is this the bond she’s been seeking? Should she follow?”
Daughter’s inspired by my family, our life. When I met a gorgeous man, 20 years ago, I fell in love with his kind, funny, warm-hearted character, he was everything I was looking for, I mapped out our future, I’m the planner. But the one thing I couldn’t understand was his family were missing. He didn’t have much of a connection with his adopted family and he’d never met anyone he was biologically related to. My family welcomed him but I wanted him to have what I had, a family who unconditionally loved him. So when he started to look, I supported him, I was as interested as he was. He knew he had another adopted sibling and when I became a mother I wondered about the circumstances that lead you to give a child up, more than one child, how did it happen? It was all a mystery that we both wanted to solve.
It wasn’t easy finding his birth mother, not for anyone involved. Uncovering secrets is painful, trauma is easier locked away and I don’t think there’s ever a right time to meet your birth mother. When we did meet her there was so much expectation it felt to me like the whole world stopped for a moment, we were all hovering and the room slowly rotated 360 degrees. Here was a woman we had so many questions for, we’d imagined who she could be but here she physically was, her hair, eyes, face, recognisable features, shared DNA.
A thought about DNA, what does it really give us apart from eye and skin colour? I think there’s something innate in children, they all come out differently but is that DNA? There are no proven links between personality types and DNA, possibly addictive traits can be handed down but that hasn’t been scientifically proven, how could it be? But many adopted people describe a cellular connection between themselves and their birth parents. Is that cellular connection between mother and child strong enough to push through rocks of hurt that have piled up over years of separation?… often it’s not..
But there is also love and hope. I’m glad to be writing about a woman finding her birth family now when we have all craved human connection in the last few months, we have been separated for too long. My biggest inspiration for writing this film was that all my husband’s family reunions felt emotionally massive and incredibly moving. I cried at every one, in the end I wore sunglasses, embarrassed that I was the only one sobbing while my children held back, eyebrows raised.
When we met my brother-in-law and his family it felt a bit like magic. Unexpected. Beautiful. Two men looking for their birth mother and they found each other, which was exactly what they needed. 7 years on, I look at them together now and sometimes get a bit choked up. There’s DNA there, they’re recognisable as brothers, 2 years apart but the most important thing is they have each other, unconditionally, for the rest of their lives.They have shared interests and shared ideals but how much of that is cellular and how much shared experience, it’s impossible to know.
Our experience of searching for birth relatives inspired me to write Daughter. My new extended family have taught me so much about love and belonging. When you reach out, you never know what you will find; connecting with strangers is a beautiful thing.
We are hoping to film in September, you can support us by following the link. https://greenlit.fund/project/daughter