They call it "the adoption triad," that holy trinity of birth parent, adoptive parent and adopted child. And although the adoptive parent and adopted child may never meet the birth parent, the bond is a peculiarly strong one, held together, in many cases, by a sense of loss and a sense of abandonment. Being given up for adoption is one of those cruel tricks that fate can play on us, and I can't imagine it being dramatized any more sensitively than in Loggerheads, Tim Kirkman's three-in-one look at a family scattered to the wind. Interweaving stories set in 1999, 2000 and 2001 ' in Kure Beach, Eden and Asheville, North Carolina, respectively ' Kirkman has created his own adoption triad, a movie in which the three main characters don't cross paths until it's too late.
First, we meet Mark (Kip Pardue), a handsome young drifter who's taken it upon himself to help save the loggerhead turtle from extinction. This involves protecting the eggs after they've been laid, buried and abandoned by the female. (Loggerheads, as the title suggests, is swimming, if not drowning, in metaphors.) Second, we meet Elizabeth (Tess Harper), a preacher's wife who's never quite accepted the circumstances under which her adopted son, Mark, left home at age 17. (His gayness didn't conform with his adoptive parents' religious beliefs.) And finally, we meet Grace (Bonnie Hunt), a recently suicidal woman who's never gotten over having been coerced into turning her newborn baby over to an adoption agency when she was, too, 17.
Kirkman, who once made a documentary called Dear Jesse in which he pointed out the similarities between himself, a gay North Carolinian, and Jesse Helms, North Carolina's homophobic U.S. senator, has a nice feel for the way prejudice can seep into the bloodstream, like poison. When new people move in across the street, Elizabeth bakes a cherry pie to take over, then turns around when she sees two men hugging in the driveway. She may not be able to maintain her husband's quietly rigid standards, though, if the cigarettes she sneaks are any indication. Nothing if not well-intentioned, Loggerheads might seem a little thin if not for the deft performances of Harper and Hunt ' that and the thick layer of sadness draped over everything.