Eleven-year-old Masha Kulabokhova is about to be adopted into fourteen-year-old Cami Diaz’s family.
Masha grew up in a Russian orphanage; Cami was born and raised in Wisconsin and has been the exclusive focus of her parents’ love her whole life. The process of Masha becoming part of the Diaz family is going to change both girls forever.
Masha is not the only new member of the Diaz family. Cami’s parents, Claudio and Cheryl Diaz, have also adopted five-year old twins, Marcel and Vadim.
The reality of bonding with children who have grown up in institutions turns out to be more difficult than the Diaz’s had ever imagined. Cami resents sharing Cheryl and Claudio, Masha, Marcel and Vadim struggle to relate to their new parents. The family fall apart. They need help. The Diaz’s hire two of the world’s best developmental psychologists to help them rebuild their family - through science.
Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, Dr Robert Marvin, has spent a lifetime developing a world-renowned therapy program that draws upon the past 100 years of scientific discoveries in the field of parent child love.
By working through Dr Marvin’s program, the Diaz’s are being connected with the latest scientific discoveries into how evolution has hard-wired parents and children to interact in ways that optimize a child’s development.
Dr Marvin believes that he can help the Diaz’s create an environment in which Masha, Marcel and Vadim can form supportive, loving relationships. But can a scientific program really change the way the Diaz family love each other? Can it help Claudio overcome the strictness inherited from his father? Will it enable Cheryl to confront the over-sensitive parenting style of her mother? Will it encourage Cami to overcome her jealousy and welcome Masha into the family?Does science hold the answers to Masha ever being able to let anyone behind her protective wall?
Will the boys stop making fart jokes for long enough to form any kind of emotional connection with anyone?
Sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking THE DARK MATTER OF LOVE fuses the story of the Diaz family learning to love with extremely rare archive footage of science experiments that explore parent child love.
The science of love has an intriguing and dark past. Experiments on monkeys, birds and even human children have contributed to science’s knowledge of love’s inner workings. Director Sarah McCarthy weaves extraordinary footage of these experiments into the narrative, drawing audiences deeper into the dark matter of love and encouraging them to look at their own relationships through an unflinching, scientific lens.
"Sometimes I feel bad but I don't want to confide in anyone, then they would also become sad. I want everyone to think that I am happy."
Masha is eleven. She is sweet, funny and fiercely independent. Having grown up in a Russian orphanage, Masha has had to depend on herself her whole life. When Masha first arrives at the Diaz’s she won’t even let Cheryl wash her clothes for her.
Dr Marvin's task is to help the Diaz's create an environment where Masha feels she can go to her parents or sister when she's upset. Despite Cheryl and Claudio’s best efforts, she continues to find it difficult to go to her new parents for help.
Finally, after months of work with Dr Marvin and therapist Nicole, the Diaz's begin to slowly take down Masha's protective wall. She's letting them in. There's still a long way to go but Masha is getting a taste for the comfort and shelter of love.
Claudio and Cheryl Diaz
“This is it, this is what we’ve always dreamed of”
Claudio and Cheryl met at Disneyland in 1990, fell in love, married and had their precious only daughter Cami in 1997.
A stay at home mother and one of six siblings herself, Cheryl has always wanted a big family but suffered a series of miscarriages after Cami. Cheryl has been working towards making this adoption a reality for the past 6 years.
Claudio is a true example of the American dream. Having fled communist Cuba for the USA with his family as a ten year-old, he worked his way from cleaning toilets at Disneyland Florida to being a Disney HR executive. Claudio wants to pass his Dad’s sacrifice forward, to give Masha, Marcel and Vadim the same gift his father gave him – a new life in America.
As Claudio and Cheryl try to bond with their new children we also gain insight into the relationship patterns Claudio and Cheryl have inherited from their parents. Dr Marvin works with both of them on developing ways in which they can pass on all of the best and none of the worst aspects of their relationships with their own parents to their new children.
“I miss the three of us, the Diaz three’
An only child who has always dreamed of a life with brothers and sisters, Cami has put lots of thought into how she can be the best big sister possible to her three new siblings. But when her dream siblings finally arrive in her home, Cami finds it hard to see Masha and the boys as anything other than competition for her parents’ attention.
As Cheryl and Claudio devote all their time trying to bond with their three new children, Cami begins to withdraw from family life. On top of the all-consuming task of fostering bonds with the twins and Masha, the Diaz’s work with Dr Marvin and Nicole to ensure that Cami doesn’t stop going to her parents with her problems.
Marcel and Vadim
Give or take the odd dispute over candy, five year old Marcel and Vadim are very protective of each other. They’ve developed thick skins to defend themselves against bullying older boys in their military run children’s home.
The twins provide a noisy contrast to Masha’s initial shyness with her new parents, breaking Claudio’s treadmill within 5 minutes of arriving at their new home and filling all awkward silences with fart noises.
Although they delight in playing games with Claudio and Cheryl, having never been looked after by a parent, the boys don’t trust or respect adults. They respond to Claudio’s strict set of house rules with hysterical tantrums and won’t let Cheryl give them the kisses and cuddles she so wants to.
Dr Marvin works with Claudio to relax his over reliance on rules, which he inherited from his father and helps Cheryl see that when the boys push her away, its not because they don't like her, it's because they don't know how to have close relationships with adults. The therapy seems to be working, as the boys’ tantrums become ever rarer and they begin to fall in love with their new mum and dad.