From Nowhere

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
From Nowhere Movie Poster Image
Timely, gritty drama follows undocumented NYC teens.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 89 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Leaves viewers with much to discuss about the situations portrayed in the movie. Argues that good students/kids who don't have their official papers deserve more than the discouragingly few options they have. What can be done? What can change?

Positive Role Models & Representations

The teen characters are realistic, with harsh, genuine problems. Their behavior isn't always admirable, but they still manage to use their intelligence to do well. Some adults are positive role models, fighting against not-so-good odds to help the teens -- but they're far from perfect themselves.


A man attempts to force himself on a girl but is stopped. Brief fighting among teens. Threats. Scenes of arguing. Tension when police arrive on the scene. Verbal descriptions of violence in other countries, i.e. soldiers taking people, torture, suicide, people being killed, etc.


Two teens kiss frequently. Brief innuendo. Mention of pregnancy.


Heavy language includes many uses of "f--k" or "f--king," "s--t," and "bitch." Excerpt from Eminem song "Shake That" has very strong lyrics.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink alcohol at the prom; brief mentions of teen drinking and characters being drunk. Adult characters drink beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that From Nowhere is a gritty teen drama about three promising but undocumented New York City high school students, their struggles to get by, and their hopes for the future. There's some on-screen violence, including fighting and a man attempting to force himself upon a girl, as well as arguing and threats. Characters also recount terrible events in other countries -- torture, death, suicide, etc. Language is very strong, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and more. Two teens kiss several times, and there's spoken sexual innuendo. Teens drink alcohol at their prom; there's also other talk of teen drinking, as well as adults drinking beer. But with its strong performances, vivid characters, and timely, relevant themes, this edgy film will leave viewers with lots to talk and think about.

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What's the story?

In FROM NOWHERE, three promising high school students -- Moussa (J. Mallory McCree), Sophie (Octavia Chavez-Richmond), and Alyssa (Raquel Castro) -- are all undocumented immigrants who attend a tough Bronx high school, where they're just trying to fit in and survive. Moussa's family has trouble paying the rent, while Sophie deals with quasi-abusive relatives. Their teacher, Jackie (Julianne Nicholson), sends them to an immigration lawyer (Denis O'Hare) in hopes of getting them into college and giving them a future. The lawyer informs them that what really counts is how deadly their home countries were. During a chat with Moussa's mother, Jackie discovers that Moussa may have the key to his case, but pride and duty could still get in the way.

Is it any good?

Director Matthew Newton delivers an earnest drama that's more about its highly relevant message than its technique. From Nowhere consists of mostly medium-distance talking scenes, with the hand-held camera constantly wobbling slightly at the edges. The few would-be dynamic moments include a near-altercation with the cops and a near-attack by an abusive relative. But the film still succeeds in underlining the plight of undocumented teens and the tough realities they face.

While the film suffers a bit from an over-serious, important tone, the strong performances and vivid characters are strong positives. At times, it's almost possible to believe that it's a documentary about three real teens and their real struggles. Chavez-Richmond is especially compelling, wearing a permanent frown, and, when possible, a hooded coat to protect herself from any kind of emotional invasion. Nicholson is wonderful as a helpful teacher who bends the rules a little, and O'Hare lends some acerbic notes of harsh reality, as well as some surprising compassion. This movie has the power to open a few eyes and change a few minds.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what From Nowhere has to say about immigrants in America. Does it seem pro, con, or a mix? What makes the issue so complicated? How relevant is the film's story to current events?

  • How does the movie depict teen drinking. Do the teens drink frequently, or only on certain occasions? Is their behavior glamorized? What are the consequences?

  • How is sex portrayed? Do the teens' romantic relationships seem appropriate or inappropriate? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • How important is family to these characters? Is family any more or less important for them than it is for anyone else?

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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