Jill and I both agree that this movie might have been exactly the wrong sort of film to settle down to after a heavy few weeks of political fuckery (and the rest). Which means you might be in for some lighter fare for the rest of the year, in order to save our mental health*.
Until then, let’s dig into John Boyega (one of the UK’s finest exports) in this harrowing tale of a young man just trying to stay out of trouble for the sake of his young son.
Imperial Dreams (2014)
A 21-year-old reformed gangster’s devotion to his family and his future is put to the test when he is released from prison and returns to his old stomping grounds in Watts, Los Angeles.
Directed by: Malik Vitthal
Starring: John Boyega • Rotimi • Glenn Plummer
Bambi (Boyega) has just been released from prison. He’s eager to get back to his young son Daytone, who’s been staying with his mother Tanya (Kellita Smith) while he’s been inside. Daytone’s mother is also in prison, having been caught stealing to literally put food on her son’s plate. Tanya, alas, is a hot mess and a substance abuser, so D is largely ignored until his father returns.
Bambi finds himself back on his old stomping ground and quickly identifies the problematic environment his son has been living in. He asks his grandfather if they can live with him, where his brother also resides but there are strict housing rules and they don’t welcome ex-felons with open arms. Meanwhile, Bambi is stringently trying to avoid his uncle’s offer of employment in favour of using his experiences to write a book.
Uncle Shrimp (Glenn Plummer) isn’t really one to say no to though, and this leads to tension at home. Shrimp resides with Tanya – and figures Bambi should be pulling his weight if he wants to keep living there too. You can probably predict that things take a turn and our boy ends up living with D in his car. D is a happy kid who seems to be enjoying the adventure but it isn’t a long term solution for either of them. Bambi is being pressured by his PO to get a paying job while he’s more inclined to pursue the writing. Flirting with a white girl on reception at a literary agency could help but the pair need money, and fast.
While Bambi wrestles with his responsibilities, he has to deal with continually being watched by the police – and of course, unfairly pulled over for doing nothing. Not to mention the threat of child protective services taking D and the drama brought by his best friend Gideon (De’aundre Bonds), a kind-hearted guy with a lot of his own problems. Much as I wish this wasn’t the case, as you watch you’re just counting down the minutes to Gideon’s demise.
When will Bambi (and Daytone) finally catch a fucking break?
This film has its heart in the right place and was enjoyable enough but I think it’s quite easy to forget. In fact, I’d seen it before but didn’t remember that until I was half-way through. The themes are important ones – police harassment, poverty and the fucked up prison system (and the lack of support given after release) – so it is worth a watch.
Boyega is wonderful as expected while his relationship with little Daytone is really sweet. In the end he ultimately has to make a very hard decision purely for the benefit of his son – and their future – and it’s devastating.
And that’s all I’ve got tonight. Why not watch and judge for yourself.
What does my beloved think of ID? Would she live with it happily in her car or leave it out in the cold? Find out here.
*I realise how lucky and privileged I am to be able to switch off from Black trauma whenever I like. It’s not fucking fair so I just wanted to acknowledge that. Clumsily.