Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Imperial Dreams, or: 2020 Has Ruined Dramatic Film

Choose a film that somewhat connects to last week’s Menace II Society, they said. You can’t possibly fail to be inspired by John Boyega’s compelling performance, they said. Well, they were wrong. And by they, I of course mean me.

It’s been a difficult year made worse by a shitshow of an election, a grim holiday season around the corner, and no end in sight to a global pandemic. This week’s film will do nothing to lighten your mood–and may, in fact, merely serve as a reminder that, no matter your circumstances, systemic racism can and does make things even worse.

The Film:

Imperial Dreams

The Premise:

Recently released from prison in Los Angeles, a young man faces persistent obstacles as he attempts to change his life for the sake of his son.

The Ramble:

After serving time in prison (a familiar pattern since the age of 12), Bambi returns to the LA projects where he grew up. This time, he is determined to carve out a different life for himself and his young son, whose mother is currently incarcerated. Bambi’s son Daytone is so young that he doesn’t even remember his father.

Down a darkened alley, a young Black man leans down with concern, hands on the shoulders of a young boy.

With a father out of the picture and a mother addicted to drugs, Bambi was raised by his uncle Shrimp, who has been taking care of Daytone. It’s clear right away that Shrimp cares for his family…but he expects loyalty in return. When Bambi turns down a job driving a car full of Oxycontin across state lines, it creates tension that simmers throughout the remainder of the film.

A middle-aged man and a younger man face each other with tense expressions.

While incarcerated, Bambi had one silver lining to hold onto–he had a semi-autobiographical short story published in McSweeney’s. His brother Wayne is also planning to get away from the old neighborhood, though he will need a significant cash infusion to pay for expenses his scholarship at Howard won’t cover. To Wayne, working with Shrimp could provide the perfect opportunity…though jaded Bambi knows better.

As he tries to find a job and land his own place to raise Daytone, Bambi hopes to stay with his grandparents. Unfortunately, the apartments where they live won’t allow convicts. Needing to distance himself from Shrimp, Bambi opts for living in a car parked outside of his grandparents’ home as a compromise. At the same time, Child & Family Services needs to know that Daytone has a safe place to live…so, of course, Bambi lies.

Two young men look into the distance at dusk, the lights of a sprawling city behind them.

Meanwhile, Shrimp’s reckless son Gideon is busy dodging police and rival gangs alike. Since a shooting went wrong, Gideon is no longer welcome in the family home. It’s not long before his past catches up with him and tragedy strikes. Will Shrimp persuade Bambi to join up with him for the sake of family? Or will Bambi’s own understanding of family loyalty prevail?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Oooof, this week has brought us another difficult watch. There seems to be no hope for any of our characters, who are stuck inevitably in a cycle of violence, incarceration, and poverty. It’s frustrating and incredibly depressing to watch Bambi take every legal avenue possible to provide for his son only to get shut out by bureaucratic red tape.

Under normal circumstances, I think I would have enjoyed this film more, so I’m going to award PPHs based on that. Also John Boyega is ever-watchable here, which I will give this film massive credit for. I’m not sure I would necessarily recommend watching this film right now, though, unless you are in a very different headspace currently. And if you are–tell me how you got there, won’t you?

Would my blog wife give this one a second chance or immediately lay down the law for its minor parole violations? Find out in her review!