Streetwise (1984)





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

This sobering documentary on the lives of several teen outcasts living on the streets of Seattle was nominated for an Academy Award in 1985 because of its content and what it reveals about this sad substrata of urban culture. While interviews with the teens show they are dreaming of making it big and living free, their reality and their naive bravado lend a pathos to their existence that is difficult to behold. Adult viewers will be well aware that their chances for survival are low, and their chances of staying out of prison worse. Rat is a 17-year-old petty criminal who would like to go back to school or join the army, though these statements are not exactly convincing. Among his friends are Dewayne, who visits his father in prison in a poignant scene; Tiny, a 14-year-old prostitute whose mother is in denial about her daughter; two other hookers, Kim (16 years old) and Shellie (13); and a 19-year-old lesbian who has a strong sense of self-preservation. The families of these teens have either thrown them out of the house or are otherwise alienated from their lives, and the only adults who enter the picture as supportive figures are social workers, doctors, and in some cases, the police themselves who do what they can to make life less difficult for the youngsters. No remedies are suggested to mend the situation, and no judgments made on the teens or their families.
Documentary , Special Interest
Directed By:
In Theaters:
Angelika Films


Critic Reviews for Streetwise

All Critics (3) | Top Critics (1)

Emotionally touching, nicely shot portrait of street kids in Seattle.

Full Review… | July 22, 2011

Quote not available.

July 17, 2005
F5 (Wichita, KS)

Quote not available.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Streetwise


This raw documentary follows the lives of street kids living in Seattle in the Mid 80s. Although it may look dated many of the issues addressed in this film still resinate to this day!

Mike Cregan
Mike Cregan

extraordinary documentary if only because director Martin Bell shoots at times where you can't be sure if a scene might be staged, which becomes all the more unlikely when one sees how embedded he really is with these kids - it's like the best MTV True Life episode never aired, incidentally directed by the Maysles. It also is special because it sidesteps some potential traps in sentimentality (one scene with a young guy and his father, who is in prison and talking through glass, made me tear-up), and Bell actually tops Errol Morris's method from Vernon, Florida in putting together the stories of these seemingly unconnected people into a cohesive whole. Only minor liability: those seeking this out due to its connection of Tom Waits doing the soundtrack may be disappointed, as he only chimes in once or twice with songs (most notably in classic somber tone over the end credits with "Take Care of My Children").

Jack Gattanella
Jack Gattanella

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