Lost in America

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Lost in America Movie Poster Image
Compassionate, eye-opening docu about unhoused youths.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 95 minutes

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Positive Messages

Sheds light on harsh realities of being unhoused, debunking myths (such as youths choosing to be unhoused, etc.), and humanizes youths who don't have homes. It's also about actively finding a solution and promoting compassion.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Rotimi Rainwater is a true survivor, overcoming extreme difficulties and becoming a filmmaker with daring and confidence. Just about everyone interviewed here, from celebrities to experts, shows that they're also actively trying to help end the problem of being unhoused. They're all admirable.


Mentions of real-life violent events (e.g., "busted my ribs," "kick my ass," etc.). Mentions of child molestation, rape, sex trafficking. Discussions of number of unhoused youths who die every day (average of 13). Mention of being burned with a hair straightener.


Story about a young woman getting pregnant.


Brief language includes uses of "s--t," "a--hole," "ass," etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking. Mentions of alcoholism. Mentions of drug use.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lost in America is a documentary about unhoused youths in America that was directed and hosted by formerly unhoused youth Rotimi Rainwater. It reports the tragic fact that there are more than 4 million unhoused youths in the United States -- and that an average of 13 of them die every day. It's a compassionate, eye-opening movie, but it does have some mature content, including descriptions of violent events like rape, child molestation, sex trafficking, other forms of harm, and death. One young woman discusses her pregnancy and the sad aftermath. Cigarette smoking is shown, and there are mentions of alcoholism and drug use. Language includes uses of "s--t," "a--hole," and "ass."

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What's the story?

In LOST IN AMERICA, Rotimi Rainwater, a formerly unhoused youth-turned-filmmaker, decides to travel across the country to explore the issue of unhoused youths in the United States and discover why it receives so little attention. He meets U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont, who tries to get a bill through Congress that will help unhoused youth. Rainwater also talks to several unhoused young people between the ages of 17 and 21. He learns that many identify as LGBTQ (and were kicked out of their homes for that reason), that America's failing foster care system sends kids out into the streets, and that sex trafficking and drug use are commonplace among unhoused youths. In the end, Rainwater achieves one small step -- establishing an accurate number of unhoused youths in America -- but the fight is just beginning.

Is it any good?

Rainwater's compassionate, fearless documentary is focused on finding ways to humanize the issue of being unhoused and give it urgency. Lost in America benefits greatly from having Rainwater at the helm and on camera, using not only his real-life experiences, but also his intrepid persistence to find the facts -- and the emotions -- he's looking for. He seems to really care, and yet he avoids self-congratulations. It's telling that this documentary's origin dates to when Rainwater arranged to screen his previous movie, Sugar, a dramatic feature about being unhoused, for Congress ... and no one showed up.

Rainwater assembles an impressive list of interviewees for Lost in America. In addition to Senator Leahy, he talks to recording artists Jewel, Miley Cyrus, and Jon Bon Jovi, and actors Rosario Dawson, Halle Berry, Tiffany Haddish, Sanaa Lathan, and Rebecca Gayheart -- all of whom either have struggled with a lack of housing themselves or are involved in trying to help. Rainwater also interviews many currently unhoused youths, like Conner and Makayla in San Francisco, who share a tragic story and its cruel aftermath, and Calub in Denver, who was thrown out for identifying as trans. In addition to facing head on the weightier problems that surround being unhoused, Lost in America also leaves us with a simple message. If you see an unhoused person, say hello. It will mean more than you can imagine.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Lost in America's descriptions of violence. Do they make an impact, even though not much is actually shown? Do you think the movie should have shown more?

  • How are drug use, smoking, and drinking connected to being unhoused?

  • Did watching this movie affect your perspective on people who don't have homes? What about the movie inspires compassion?

  • According to the movie, 40% of unhoused youths were thrown out of their home for identifying as LGBTQ. Why do you think that happens? What could help prevent it? Visit https://www.lostinamericafilm.com for more information.

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