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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Princess of the Row is an emotional drama about Beaumont "Bo" Willis (Edi Gathegi), a U.S. military veteran who suffered a brain injury and is now unhoused, and his daughter, Alicia (Tayler Buck). She lives in foster care with Magdalene Rodriguez (Ana Ortiz) but chooses to stay with Bo on the streets in the hope of curing him of his illness. Expect infrequent swearing (including "f--k") and alcohol use, as well as scenes of kicking, pushing, and urinating on an injured person and attempted sexual abuse toward a minor. It has themes of compassion and empathy, but this film about a girl coming of age amid harsh conditions is definitely a tear-jerker. Tissues will be required.
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What's the story?
PRINCESS OF THE ROW follows Alicia (Tayler Buck), a young girl who stays with her father, Sgt. Beaumont "Bo" Willis (Edi Gathegi), on the streets of Los Angeles, despite having a place of residence at a local foster home. Even though Alicia's guardian, Magdalene (Ana Ortiz), is trying to place Alicia with a stable family, Alicia runs away with Bo in an attempt to live out her dream of earning enough money to help him with his illness and regain his money from the Veterans Affairs office. Soon, Alicia is faced with a heartbreaking decision: live with John and Carolina Austin (Martin Sheen, Jenny Gago) and leave her father behind, or stay with her father on the street, putting her own life in danger.
Is it any good?
This emotional drama focuses on a girl coming of age while dealing with her father's brain injury and mental illness. Princess of the Row might seem like a family drama on the surface, but it brings up poignant issues about veterans' care and the care of children in the U.S. foster care system. Gathegi does a tremendous job as Bo, who comes in and out of lucidity as he lives in memories of his PTSD from war. Granted, Gathegi isn't someone who lives with PTSD in real life, which could upset some disabled viewers, especially since there's a movement to have more authentic casting in such roles. That said, Gathegi gives a moving portrayal of a U.S. veteran who's been disregarded by his government and the American people. Hopefully, this will make viewers more conscious of some of the shortcomings the U.S. government has to account for in regards to how it treats veterans.
Buck also does excellent work as Alicia, a complex role that requires an especially talented young actor. Buck invests all of herself into the character, taking viewers on an emotionally resonant journey. By the end of the film, you'll hope that Buck becomes a huge name in Hollywood. The rest of the cast -- including Brown, Ortiz, Sheen, Gago, and Vargas -- help buoy the film with their solid performances. Overall, the film is impressive on both the acting and storytelling fronts and likely to leave audiences in tears and with a full heart.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the United States' treatment of veterans. In which ways does the country serve veterans? In what ways does it shortchange them?
How are military veterans typically portrayed in the media? How does Princess of the Row's portrayal compare to other depictions you've seen in movies and on TV?
In what ways can families support foster care organizations? How can they support people who are without a home?
- In theaters: November 27, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: January 26, 2021
- Cast: Edi Gathegi, Michael Sheen, Ana Ortiz, Tayler Buck, Tabitha Brown, Jacob Vargas, Jenny Gago
- Director: Van Maximilian Carlson
- Studio: Gravitas Ventures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Middle School
- Character strengths: Compassion, Empathy
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: January 25, 2021
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