Six childless women from the United States are in an unnamed Latin American country (filmed in Acapulco, Mexico), fulfilling a residence requirement while they wait to adopt babies. The owner of the hotel they stay in (Rita Moreno) and her brother, a lawyer, both make a profit from this delay. The film explores the experiences of the six women and of the people of the place from which their children will come, a place of which they see only a small part of the surface.

The Americans' stories are juxtaposed with that of a young woman who cleans the hotel rooms, who gave up her own baby for adoption "up north," and a pregnant fifteen-year-old middle class girl whose mother takes her to Miami, presumably for an abortion. The film also looks at the implications of political activism which is, for the men in the film, necessary but, for the women, appears to come at the cost of security and domestic stability.

The hotel owner's son criticizes the adoptions as a form of "Yankee cultural imperialism," yet even as we are persuaded by his view, we are swayed by the film's telling contrast between the futures offered by the American women and the lives of the city's glue-sniffing street children. The film ends with two of the women about to receive their adoptive children.


John Sayles provides a series of absorbing glimpses into the lives of those involved in the "Casa de los Babys" over a period of a few months. He does not tell a single complete story, and the film ends without resolution. This fittingly reflects the content: children's lives begin in one place and then adoption takes them to new lives, away from their geographical, cultural, and biological roots.

The women become intensely close while they wait for their children, but will go back to their own lives all over the United States. They live in close proximity with the local people, but cannot hear their stories because most of them do not understand Spanish. In one moving scene, one of the adopting women (Susan Lynch) tells the woman cleaning her room (Vanessa Martinez) about her dreams for the child she will adopt; the other responds by telling her own dreams about the child she gave up for adoption. One speaks English, the other Spanish; one understands more than the other, but we are left with stories that are profoundly close yet permanently separate (except that one mysteriously decides to give her adopted child the same name the other had given her lost child).

The film gives us glimpses of lives and then moves on: one woman is an alcoholic (Mary Steenburgen); one is wealthy but emotionally estranged from her husband (Maggie Gyllenhaal); one was abused by her own mother (Marcia Gay Harden); they have struggled with infertility treatments, miscarriages or children with lethal congenital defects (Darryl Hannah), or with the prospect of single motherhood (Lili Taylor). These stories are told in a setting that reminds us of the economic and political substrata that determine the experiences of all involved in the business of international adoption.

Primary Source

MGM / United Artists