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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Positive messages of tolerance and acceptance.
Positive Role Models
Despite living in a strict Christian household that believes homosexuality is a sin, Mason shows no animosity or hatred toward Mitchel's boyfriend, Jameson, who is also a young Black teenager in a very White community. Jameson is depicted as a very nice kid who simply loved Mitchel dearly. Mason and Mitchel's extended family are variously racist, naive, and/or incredibly homophobic, but older sister Megan represents tolerance and modernity.
The film is about a strict Christian family dealing with the loss of Mitchel, twin brother to Mason. Mitchel was gay and had a relationship with another boy, Jameson, who is Black. The one character in the film who isn't White, Jameson is soft spoken, loving, and a sweetheart. He experiences uncomfortable micro-aggressions and some overt racism as he is, at times, assumed to be a drug dealer, a criminal, and/or a "deviant."
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Violence & Scariness
Some teens get into a fist fight. Punches and kicks are thrown and one teen gets bloodied. His face is bruised, and his lips are cut. Other teens yell, "F-ggot," when making fun of gay teens. A teen is the victim of cyberbullying behavior. A father yells at his son as he suspects him of having drugs. Scenes of teens contemplating suicide.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A drunk woman makes a few sexual comments toward a pastor: "I just want a quickie!" Later, two adults have sex in a car (nothing can be seen except some clothed shapes moving up and down). Teens romantically kiss.
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Strong language throughout includes: "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "f-ggot," "a--hole," "goddamn," and "hell."
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Products & Purchases
An Amazon package shows up in the mail and has a Ouija board game inside.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A teen boy has an addiction to "pills," but it isn't revealed what kind of pills, exactly. A woman drinks alcohol and later behaves drunkenly. Two adults drink at a bar.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Wake is an indie drama about a strict Christian family dealing with the loss of one of their own. Mason and Mitchel were twins, but Mitchel lost his life and the family must come together for the wake. The father is a disciplinarian, the mother is racist, and the family is generally very homophobic. For the parents, it's clear that being gay means that "you will burn in hell for eternity." The film is very White except for Jameson, who was the secret Black boyfriend of Mitchel when he was still alive. When Jameson is invited to the wake, tensions increase and secrets are revealed. Expect strong language ("f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "f-ggot," "a--hole," "goddamn," and "hell"), cyberbullying behavior, scenes of teens contemplating suicide, racist and homophobic behavior, and some brief, clothed sexual content. A teen suffers from a "pill addiction" and tries to stop. A teen also gets into some fist fights, getting beat up and bloodied in the process. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is a solid indie drama that shows what many young gay teens growing up in strict Christian households and communities have experienced and might continue to experience. In A Wake, the kinds of homophobia that Mitchel faced in his daily life were all-encompassing and pervasive. With little room for tolerance within the home and outside the home (at school, in the streets), Mitchel had very little free space to be himself. The film also does well not to completely demonize Mitchel's devoutly Christian family, either. The father is given some humanity in his pain and confusion. The grandmother is diplomatic and calmly understanding of each position. And the little sister, of course, is given space to be young and naive.
There are a few missteps, however. Mason's initial interest in psychics and a Ouija board is understandable but also loses its purpose halfway through once Jameson makes it clear he's not into it. Further, while Jameson is presented as an incredibly nice, well-mannered, and decent young Black man, it's hard to believe that he wouldn't have the street smarts or awareness not to so brazenly out himself in the midst of an incredibly hateful family. He would've known from Mitchel that his family was incredibly intolerant of homosexuality and even Black people, so it was odd to see Jameson so comfortably speak about his love for Mitchel in front of his parents and pastor, all of whom explicitly believe that being gay is a sin and will end with your soul burning in hell forever.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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