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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Imperial Dreams is a hard-hitting, often unsettling and sad, portrayal of a young African-American man after he leaves prison with hopes of making a new life for himself and his son. It unquestionably feels real from start to finish, which heightens both the jeopardy and emotional content. Set in Los Angeles's Watts neighborhood, foreboding and menace accompany both hero and child. The child is terrified in a series of scenes during which he witnesses brutality. Violence incidents include: (Spoiler Alerts) a featured character shot multiple times; the bloody extraction of a bullet from a man's arm; man and boy running for their lives from gang-bangers; physical fighting; and characters held hostage at gunpoint. Drug and alcohol use, drug sales, and addiction are all major elements of the story. Profanity and ethnic slurs are pervasive ("f--k," "s--t," the "N" word). This remarkably poignant and moving film is recommended for mature teens and up.
What's the story?
Bambi Jones (John Boyega) comes home from prison to the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles in IMPERIAL DREAMS to find that nothing has changed in his absence. His mother is still a crack addict, his uncle is still a strong-arm drug dealer, and his very young son, Dayon (twins Ethan and Justin Coach) has been living in a brutal world, with his mother in County Jail. It's Bambi's plan to get out and take his beloved son with him. What he faces, however, are forces both from his family and "the system" (law enforcement, government agencies, private businesses) that are set on defeating him. In every direction Bambi turns, doors close. The only things Bambi has in his favor, besides his powerful bond with Day, is his ability to write and and an ongoing faith in himself. As events happen and disappointments intensify, Bambi's resolve is relentlessly tested.
Is it any good?
Prepare to be dazzled by the performances and deeply moved by the story in this heartfelt, realistic, impeccably-produced film by first-time feature director Malik Vitthal. Making the rounds of film festivals after its debut at Sundance in 2014, Imperial Dreams had a limited theatrical run and finally landed at Netflix where it, hopefully, will reach a wide audience, perhaps because its star, John Boyega, is now a leading man in the Star Wars franchise. Boyega is extraordinary as Bambi. And he's surrounded by a large company of seasoned, talented supporting actors. The Coach twins, who play Day with treasured understatement and charm, will break your heart. It's not always an easy story to watch -- Bambi's journey is often painful and scarily out of control -- but it's a journey worth taking. Highly recommended for mature audiences.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the filmmakers made Imperial Dreams feel real. What choices did they make (for example, use of close-ups, profanity) that made the movie both intimate and true to life?
Think about the very last frame of this movie. What was director Malik Vitthal, along with his team, trying to communicate to his audience? What was your take-away from just this final shot?
How did the events in this movie risk both the physical and emotional well-being of Day? Did you agree with the outcome of Day's story? Why or why not?
- In theaters: October 1, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: February 3, 2017
- Cast: John Boyega, Glenn Plummer, Rotimi
- Director: Malik Vitthal
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Courage, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-control
- Run time: 87 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.