Sitting at a table, using her left hand, Avery Klein-Cloud is writing a letter to her biological mother, reaching out to her for the first time in Avery's 18 years of life. The `Cloud' is her adoptive mother, Travis, from Illinois. `Klein' is another mother of an adopted child, Rafi. `Klein,' (called `Tova' by Avery) is from Israel. She has raised Avery Jewish--and from my personal `Reform' perspective, very Jewish. The two mothers met at a meeting of single parents with adopted children, when Avery was an infant, and when Rafi was about the same age. When Avery was ten, the two mothers adopted a third child, Zay-Zay.
Avery is a dark-skinned African-American, the two mothers are Caucasian, Rafi is of mixed-race origin, and Zay-Zay is Korean. The family lives in Brooklyn, and they have a nickname--"The United Nations." Two forces intrude in this happy family's life--Avery's inevitable identity crisis and Nicole Opper's accomplished documentary filmmaking skills.
Although we get to know the whole family, the focus is on Avery, a competitive runner. We get a sense of her daily life, her thoughts and feelings, and we see her running. Reaching out to her biological mother is the first manifestation we see of Avery's identity crisis. How she and The United Nations respond to this crisis is the crux of the story.
My hat is off to everyone who created "Off and Running". I was right with every member of this family as they struggle through the crisis. My psychologist self wanted to put Avery in individual therapy immediately, and, especially, put The United Nations in family therapy. But, just like our inability to advise the scantily clad ingénue on the screen, "Don't go in that room!!!", I couldn't help them. I had to follow each family member's productive and painful decisions, keeping my mouth shut as Avery went through a Herculean struggle
The DVD's `Special Features" contains the usual deleted scenes--and something not usual. Avery's in a room with a piano. The door opens and in walks Daniel Bernard Roumain, the film's composer. He's there to get a sense of Avery, and to share his approach to music and composition. In addition to the piano, he plays a fiery violin. My hat's off again, to whoever put the two together and capture it for us to experience this perfect coda to a beautiful story.