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Film / Losing Isaiah

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Losing Isaiah is a 1995 American drama film starring Jessica Lange and Halle Berry.

Isaiah, an African-American baby, is abandoned by his crack-addicted mother Khaila Richards. When Margaret Lewin, a white social worker spots Isaiah, she becomes attached to the child. He is immediately adopted by Margaret and her husband Charles. Several years later, a newly-clean Khaila discovers that Isaiah is alive and is being raised by the Lewins. Khaila decides to sue Margaret and Charles, and the three get involved in a nasty custody battle over who gets to raise Isaiah.

Tropes in this film:

  • Chewbacca Defense: How Khaila was able to win the case against Isaiah's adoption with the Lewins.
  • Character Development: Khaila Richards. She starts out as a junkie "going to get high" and later pursues rehab, quitting crack cold turkey. Just this is enough to persuade the judge to rule in favor of her.
  • Disappeared Dad: Khaila admits she has no idea who Isaiah's biological father was, since she'd been a prostitute who slept with men to get money for drugs.
  • Fish out of Water: Isaiah feels this way when he is yanked from the Lewins and placed with his biological mother Khaila who is a complete stranger to him. He totally shuts down and withdraws as a result.
  • Happily Adopted: Subverted with Isaiah and the Lewin family as Khaila tries to reverse it via legal action.
  • Mighty Whitey: Khaila's lawyer accuses Margaret of invoking this, when she tells him that she is Isaiah's "only hope".
  • Nature Versus Nurture: Pretty much what this movie is all about...
  • Oblivious Adoption: Isaiah with the Lewins. He's still too young to realize they aren't his birth parents.
  • Parental Abandonment: Khaila did this to Isaiah by dumping him in a trash can, just so she could get high. The obstructive bureaucrat lawyers never call her out on this.
  • School Play: One scene stars Charles and Margaret Lewin's daughter Hannah in a school play. Charles brings Isaiah and a tantrum ensues for no apparent reason.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When Khaila's lawyer interrogates Margaret if any of the dolls Isaiah plays with are black, She responds "Yes, and some of them are green and some of them are orange..." He later asks "Who do you think he identifies with? The orange-faced muppet?"
    • Said lawyer also asks Margaret if she ever read any books to Isaiah such as "Fathers and Sons" and "Uncle Jed's Barbershop", as they center around Afro-American characters and culture.
  • Slut-Shaming: Implied when the Lewins' lawyer notes that Khaila, as she'd been a prostitute to buy drugs, had slept with many men and thus has no idea who her son's birth father was.