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Atlantics

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Atlantics Movie Poster Image
Subtitled drama takes unexpected twist; strong language.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 104 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Love can be painful (but also last beyond space and time); those who take advantage of others will pay for it eventually.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ada is flawed and unsure of herself, but ultimately she stays true to the poor man she really loves, rather than agreeing to marry for money/position.

Violence

Someone describes being in a small boat that's crushed by a large wave, resulting in many deaths. Ada is forced to undergo an exam to confirm she's still a virgin. When they're possessed by the restless spirits, living people have white eyes and appear as if in a trance, haunting the living.

Sex

Kissing. A couple makes love. Brief glimpse of a bare breast.

Language

"S--t," "f--k," "crap," "piss," and "hell" (all in subtitles).

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

People drink/party in a bar. Smoke.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Atlantics is a supernatural French/Senegalese drama that pits the rich against the poor, as impoverished African construction workers exact revenge on the real estate mogul who stiffed them. The movie's shift from realism to the paranormal isn't explicit, so following the plot may be tricky for some viewers. Language (in subititles) includes "s--t" and "f--k." Bar-set scenes show adults drinking; there's also smoking. A violent death at sea is described. People under the sway of restless spirits look creepy/scary. Main character Ada (Mama Sané) is forced to undergo an exam to confirm that she's still a virgin. There's kissing, a sex scene, and the brief glimpse of a bare breast.

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What's the story?

In cultures where one of the few routes out of poverty is to marry money, the pressure is great for young people who must sacrifice in order to help their families. In ATLANTICS, Ada (the mesmerizing Mama Sané) is a lovely 17-year-old Senegalese girl promised to Omar (Babacar Sylla), the son of a wealthy family with a large, luxurious house and international lifestyle. The trouble is that Ada is in love with Souleiman (Ibrahima Traoré), a struggling construction worker whose wealthy boss hasn't paid his crew for three months. As her wedding day nears, Ada becomes more despondent, partly because she'll be turned over to Omar's family like property, but also because Souleiman, stiffed by his boss, took off with friends to seek work in Spain and has been reported lost at sea. On her wedding day, when Ada's wedding bed spontaneously combusts with no detectable cause for ignition, a young cop (Amadou Mbow) accuses Ada, who was in another room, and her dead boyfriend, who was, of course, dead. What's really going on here?

Is it any good?

First-time Senegalese director Mati Diop uses her clear eye to present real problems faced by real women all over the world, and that aspect of her film is to be commended and supported. Diop is the first African female director to be in the Cannes Film Festival's important Competition section, and Atlantics was awarded the festival's coveted Grand Prix in 2019.

But the film's weaknesses go beyond its difficult-to-follow narrative. There's very little character development -- we have no idea why Ada and Souleiman love each other, apart from some convincing kissing. Nor is the slightest clue or insight provided into Souleiman's personality. Women break into a rich man's home demanding money they're owed. Who are they? Why is the money owed? Why are all their eyes milky? Are they zombies? If they're zombies, why do the police seem to be treating their arrival in a rich man's home as an ordinary crime? Close to the end of the film, we discover what's really going on, but it feels like that information is coming 40 minutes too late. And then the details of the condition/situation raise even more questions, none of which are given clear or satisfactory answers. Such fuzzy artiness is bound to have limited appeal for those who like specifics.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Atlantics shifts from realism to the paranormal. Did you like the switch? Why or why not? Did you expect it?

  • In some cultures, young people must marry spouses chosen by their parents. What do you think might be some of the pros and cons of that practice?

  • Do you consider any of the characters role models? Why or why not?

Movie details

For kids who love foreign films

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