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Collisions

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Collisions Movie Poster Image
Dramatic deportment tale has mild language, violence.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Families take care of each other, despite hardships. Children need parent figures, no matter how grown-up or responsible they may seem. The current-day system for detaining and deporting immigrants is portrayed as inhumane and full of injustices, both small and large.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Yoana clearly loves her children. Itan is responsible beyond her years, caring for her little brother and excelling at school. She selflessly puts her academic dreams aside to track down her detained mother and holds her irresponsible uncle accountable until he eventually changes his behavior and attitude. Evencio learns to love his nephew and niece, face past mistakes, and take responsibility for his family's future. ICE agents are shown to be largely cold-hearted bureaucrats, while CPS agents seem to mean well but make potentially damaging decisions.

Violence

Yoana is pushed to the ground and down a hall by ICE agents, then later forced to sit and sleep on cold floors and denied her asthma medication. Kids are placed to live temporarily with an uncle they don't know who behaves in a hostile way. A man appears to be preying on Neto at a truck stop one night; the boy later disappears. Itan and her uncle have a fight, and she throws a mug and coffee pot at him.

Sex

Prostitutes knock on truckers' doors at night, and Evencio joins at least one. He has a sign in his truck that reads "Wake me up, I'm horny" on one side an "No lot lizards" with a drawing of a woman on the other. His home has a poster with women in bikinis.

Language

Infrequent but includes "holy crap" and "f--k."

Consumerism

McDonald's, local San Francisco establishments, trucking company names.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Evencio drinks liquor and beer and smokes cigarettes and a joint. Itan tries a glass of liquor when Evencio isn't looking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Collisions is an intense drama about the impact of policies enforced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Child Protective Services (CPS). These authority figures' insensitive treatment of young children and immigrant adults is upsetting and even frightening. Siblings must rely on a sketchy relative after their mother is detained. A middle schooler who has long acted as caretaker and surrogate mother for her younger brother puts her academic dreams on hold after her mother is detained. The responsibility weighs on her, especially when the boy disappears one night in a potentially upsetting scene at a truck stop where a man had earlier appeared to be preying on him. The children's uncle is a heavy drinker and smoker who frequents prostitutes, but nothing explicit is shown on screen. At one point, a middle schooler tries a small glass of liquor and appears to feel dizzy afterward. Language includes "crap" and "f--k."  The movie portrays the current-day system for detaining and deporting immigrants as inhumane and full of injustice.

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What's the story?

COLLISIONS opens with ICE agents pushing their way into a woman's home and shoving her to the ground with what seems like unnecessary force. Viewers quickly learn that the woman, Yoana (Ana de la Reguera), is the mother of two children, middle schooler Itan (Izabella Alvarez) and her little brother, Neto (Jason Garcia), who are used to taking care of themselves while Yoana is out working four jobs. Once she's taken away, the siblings are forced to rely on their estranged Uncle Evencio (Jesse Garcia) or face separation by child services. Itan leads the trio on a hunt through a maze of unmarked detention centers and incomplete online data to track down Yoana's whereabouts. Evencio, an out-of-work truck driver with a penchant for alcohol and prostitutes, isn't a trustworthy caretaker, but he's all they've got. After he abandons the children at a roadside hotel, they're forced to take matters into their own hands. Meanwhile, Yoana is held in makeshift detention centers in inhumane conditions while she awaits deportation to Mexico.

Is it any good?

Donald Trump may not be mentioned by name in this film, but his administration's policies loom large in the background of this emotional dramatization of contemporary headlines. Collisions opens with the chilling statistic that a U.S. citizen child is separated from his or her parents by deportation every 4 minutes. That number may have provided the inspiration for the film's fictional family, but writer-director Richard Levien brings the characters to fuller life. They embody a range of realities of the immigrant experience, from the disconnect between different generations' attachment to their country of origin and its traditions, customs, and language, to the varied paths taken to achieve the "American Dream" (or fail in the attempt).

Levien also makes use of natural sound and light to infuse the fictional tale with an intentional realism. And young star Alvarez offers an earnest performance as an intelligent but frightened girl who's forced to grow up too soon. Well-known actor Garcia (Quinceañera) offers some of the film's most subtle moments as he bonds with his nephew and niece, faces the errors of his past, and takes on the mantle of family patriarch (his lack of an accent, compared with his younger sister's heavily accented English, goes unexplained). The film's message and sympathies are abundantly clear; as a result, scenes with ICE and CPS representatives, some of whose faces symbolically aren't shown, can feel heavy-handed. But however you feel about the movie's politics, some of its powerful shots and sequences are likely to stick with you -- like a final drive through the border town of Tijuana that brings full circle the film's desire to show the human face of the immigration debate.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Collisions portrays government agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Child Protective Services (CPS). Does the portrayal feel accurate? Fair?

  • How does Collisions relate to current events in the United States? Have you read any news accounts about the detainment and deportation of immigrants?

  • In what ways do you sympathize with Itan? Kids: Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to be in charge, even when someone older than you was present?

  • Itan, Yoanna, and Evencio represent different versions, not all successful, of striving for the so-called "American Dream." In what ways does each character try to make his or her life better by taking advantages of opportunities in the United States?

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