What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this movie includes frequent allusions to sexuality and young people testing limits of authority. A 14-year-old character skips school and sells drugs: subsequently, he's suspended from school, chastised by his brother and uncle, beated by a group of older guys, and shot by his drug dealer employer (shooting takes place off screen and boy does not die). Girls wear revealing clothes, their bottoms featured in several "booty" shots. We hear that two boys lost their parents in a car accident.
What's the story?
17-year old Rashad (T.I./Tip Harris) and his 14-year-old brother Ant (Evan Ross Naess), are orphaned and living with their Uncle George (Mykelti Williamson). Rashad works with George cleaning office buildings at night, trying to put away enough money to ensure Ant gets out of the hood and goes to college. But Ant resents his big brother's rule-making and sees a flashier role model in Marcus (Big Boi), who rolls up equipped with fine rims and pitbulls. Rashad works hard, focuses on his gift for comic-book drawing, and becomes infatuated with a pretty girl (Lauren London). Rashad's friend Esquire (Jackie Long) is also dedicated to getting out: he attends private school on a scholarship, works at the golf course, and pursues a college recommendation letter from local CEO John Garnett (Keith David). Though Garnett has a huge house, he's not quite figured out how to be a progressive father figure, to a mentee like Esquire or his own child. In this, he's similar to George, who's also struggling to look after his nephews. While Rashad sees George as missing the point of parenting, it turns out that both miss the slide Ant makes into Marcus' sphere, until Ant's discovered dealing marijuana at school.
Is it any good?
Engaging, bright, and energetic, ATL follows a conventional coming-of-age plot, while also complicating the usual tale of kids coming up in the hood. Rashad's voiceover provides a central-ish point of view, though the film cuts all over the place, including life lessons for his friends and family as well.
While the movie shows a range of ambitions and self-performances, by kids and adults, it doesn't judge them, but considerers how they come to see options. Certainly, Rashad's art gets the most play, but all of them create their own identities through the work they do and the relationships they forge. Sometimes too earnest, mostly complicated, and always generous, ATL never loses sight of this truth, that the kids' experiences and decisions have contexts.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about Rashad's fears of commitment and abandonment, owing to the loss of his parents. How does his relationship with his younger brother eventually teach the value of taking responsibility and being honest?