A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Still Here is a drama about a kidnapped girl that addresses racism, the Black community's relationship with law enforcement, and other serious topics. There's a disturbing description of a young man sexually abusing, hitting, and kidnapping the missing girl, and a woman talks about being roughed up by a man. White cops assault Black suspects, and one man punches another, leaving a bruise and a cut lip. A character dies via suicide off-screen, and two dead bodies are partly shown. Language is extremely strong, with countless uses of "f--k," "s--t," and the "N" word. Characters drink (mostly whiskey and beer) in bars and clubs. A somewhat clueless newspaper reporter (whose character fits the "White savior" cliché) regularly smokes cigarettes. There's kissing, some of it pretty passionate, and sex-related talk. It's not exactly fully formed, but there's enough here to make for an interesting, discussion-worthy experience.
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What's the story?
In STILL HERE, young Monique Watson has gone missing in New York. Her distraught father, Michael (Maurice McRae), does everything he can -- putting up flyers and doing his best to keep hoping -- but he knows that the police won't prioritize the situation because it involves a Black family. Star reporter Christian Baker (Johnny Whitworth) is assigned to cover the case, and he discovers that a cab driver suddenly disappeared the same day that Monique did. Christian's initial hunch turns out to be wrong, but it gets police detectives Spaulding (Jeremy Holm) and Evans (Danny Johnson) back on the job. Hoping to put things right, Christian keeps investigating, finally finding his first useful clue after speaking to Keysha (Zazie Beetz). But is it too late to save Monique?
Is it any good?
While some aspects of this movie feel off the mark, others are spot-on, and the finished product, while not a particularly good mystery, at least becomes a decent, earnest social drama. The feature directing debut by Vlad Feier, Still Here relies on multiple characters with varied success. Perhaps the most troubling is Christian Baker, a "White savior" character who's remarkably clueless when it comes to communicating with the movie's Black characters. Eventually he writes about "kindness," which is a positive message, but he himself doesn't seem to have expressed any. (Whitworth also seems to be channeling Kurt Russell, with his mane of hair and raspy, murmuring delivery.) Detective Spaulding, meanwhile, is a White man who's shown being a good father and having a comfortable relationship with his Black partner, Evans -- but Spaulding is horribly racist and violent when dealing with Black suspects. And the Watsons are portrayed as a loving family who are proud but not naive about the realities of their world.
Despite some wobbly camerawork and awkward montages, the story itself is competently told, though it loses suspense by not introducing all of the key characters early. (Beetz has only one scene, late in the film.) The acting is fine across the board. At its best, Still Here could perhaps stimulate worthwhile conversations with the serious, sincere way it delivers its message.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Still Here's violence. How much of it takes place off-screen? Would it have been more effective to see it? Or is hearing it described powerful enough? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
How does the movie address racism? Which White characters are hateful, and which are ignorant? What's the difference? How do both types of characters affect those they interact with?
How does the movie portray the relationship between Black people and law enforcement? Do you think it's accurate?
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