18 Presents

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
18 Presents Movie Poster Image
Italian tearjerker has some language, mature themes.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 115 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

It takes maturity to feel empathy and understand others.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Feeling justified in her anger and self pity, a girl is strong enough and smart enough to accept what happened to her and her mother.

Violence

A teenager rages at her father and runs away. She darts across a highway, is hit by a passing car, and put into a coma. A pregnant woman is diagnosed with incurable cancer. A cancer sufferer coughs up blood on her white dress. A pregnant woman sees blood on her pants.

Sex

A 40-year-old man picks up a drunk 18-year-old and takes her to a bar with the hope of having sex with her, until he realizes that she's the daughter of a friend.

Language

"F--k," "s--t," "t-ts," "piss," "bastard," "crap," "dickhead," and "balls."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A teen smokes cigarettes and drinks alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 18 Presents, in Italian with English subtitles, is a highly emotional story about the trauma experienced by a young girl whose mother died giving birth to her. Understandable teenage angst and anger are on display, but empathy for her mother's plight and the efforts her father made after his wife's death grow as the girl learns more of the backstory that led to the fateful day of her birth. Language includes "f--k," "s--t" and "t-ts." An older man picks up a teenage hitchhiker, hoping to have sex, but realizes she's the daughter of a friend and nothing happens. A teen smokes cigarettes and drinks alcohol. A character darts across a highway, is hit by a passing car, and put into a coma. 

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What's the story?

18 PRESENTS is the highly emotional story of a young girl named Anna (Benedetta Porcaroli) whose mother, Elisa (Vittoria Puccini), died giving birth to her. Anna's anger mounts as, year after year, friends and relatives gather to give her the gifts that her mother, diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy, had planned, all the way to her 18th birthday. The celebrations are always tinged with mourning for her young mother's death, making Anna feel guilty, rebellious, and ungrateful. She runs away on her 18th birthday, and things take an unexpected turn from there. 

Is it any good?

This film achieves a difficult goal, creating a plausible alternate reality that fosters empathy in a self pitying teen. Meeting your own dead mother can do that. The dream that intercuts through the film is so real and believable that it ultimately affects the dead mother, too. Fantasy and real-life are skillfully intertwined, as Elisa is the driver who hits Anna, and that accident triggers the dream that brings the exasperating, drunken teen into the life of a pregnant cancer patient. Plus, Elisa has just received the diagnosis, so she has a lot on her mind, yet miserable as she is, she's still kind enough to bring the injured girl to her home for first aid.

To 18 Presents' credit, Elisa is no saintly maternal figure -- she's irritable, short-tempered, and distracted, and Anna's lying and evasiveness annoy the older woman. In the early minutes of the dream sequence, the audience can't help but wonder where this overlap of past and present can possibly lead, but the stories are neatly dovetailed as the story ends.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why a girl who knows her mother died after giving birth to her would carry guilt through her entire life and balk at celebrating her birthday year after year. What do you think Anna's dream shows her about her mother?

  • How does the fantasy element of 18 Presents influence its believability? Can emotions be true even if events aren't?

  • What do you think about movies that intermix dead and living people?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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