A Boy Called Po

Movie review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
A Boy Called Po Movie Poster Image
Weepy tale of widowed father's struggles with autistic son.
  • PG
  • 2017
  • 95 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Overcoming grief and learning to accept help in the process. Facing the challenges and fears of parenting a kid with special needs.

Positive Role Models & Representations

David must grieve for his deceased wife and parent a kid with special needs at the same time. He goes from someone who buries himself in stressful work to make it go away and yells at his son because of his frustrating behavior to someone who's more tuned in to his kid and who knows how to ask for help when he needs it.

Violence

A wife's/mother's funeral opens the movie. Viewers see a casket in a cemetery. For most of the movie, a kid doesn't know his mother died of cancer and repeatedly asks, "Where's Mommy?" A boy has night terrors and wakes up screaming. A middle school bully chases, shoves, and punches his victim, once in the face, with talk of bruises on other parts of the victim's body. A finger caught in a moving model airplane propeller leads to stitches. A boy runs away more than once. One man hits another in the face.

Sex

One kiss. Nonsexual near nudity: a boy in his underwear and sitting on the toilet.

Language

"Bulls--t," "dammit," "retarded," and "asses" each said once.

Consumerism

Annie's macaroni and cheese is purchased and consumed constantly. Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself" song is a favorite. Wall Street Journal read nightly.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Boy Called Po is a drama about the grieving process and parenting a kid with autism. In the very first scene, viewers will see the casket of a wife and mother who died of cancer; throughout the movie, the son asks his grieving dad, "Where's Mommy?" A bully pushes, chases, and punches the boy at school; he gets one black eye, and many other bruises are mentioned. The boy's behavioral challenges related to autism lead him to run away more than once and to stick his finger in the propeller of a large model airplane. He gets stitches in the emergency room. Language is infrequent but includes a use of "bulls--t." Viewers will learn a bit about therapies used to help kids on the autism spectrum and the common struggles they face. Here one struggle is food sensitivity and selectivity, which is so pronounced that we see Annie's macaroni and cheese at every meal.

User Reviews

Parent of a 4 and 9 year old Written bymarilyn a. September 4, 2017

Havent cried like this in a loooong time

This movie opened my eyes on the struggle many of my family and friends go through with an autistic child. These angels are so smart but also a handful. And the... Continue reading
Adult Written byErica P. August 30, 2017
This movie is a MUST SEE! The performances are first rate and these actors tackle a very delicate issue with empathy, wisdom, and heart. You will laugh, cry, an... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old March 10, 2018

Better than two stars!

You should definitely watch this it’s soooo good!!!!
Adult Written byWillis Knight September 1, 2017

BEAUTIFUL, TOUCHING STORY WITH A GREAT MESSAGE!

I love this movie and think it is a great film for the whole family to watch. It is really important for school age children to understand autism and bullying.... Continue reading

What's the story?

In A BOY CALLED PO, an 11-year-old autistic boy named Patrick (Julian Feder), who prefers the nickname "Po," is at school getting bullied while his father, David (Christopher Gorham), attends Po's mother's funeral. After the funeral, David struggles to find the time to mourn. He's under a lot of pressure at work to build the perfect modern airplane. And after work, he manages Po's specialized care, which includes many therapies and many more late nights listening to Po read the Wall Street Journal when he can't sleep. It's a routine David can't sustain for long. Soon his struggles at work cost him his job, and his struggles with Po worsen. Po acts out, running off more often and lacking any kind of focus at school. And he retreats further into his own fantasy world every day. It's a world, David fears, where one day he may no longer be able to reach his son.

Is it any good?

This tale of mourning and the difficulties of parenting a kid with autism feels more like a TV movie drama than a theatrical release in its production values and multiple weepy moments. In an overload of jumpy scenes and a maudlin soundtrack by Burt Bacharach, a lot of sadness hits the viewer at once: a funeral, a bullied boy with many challenges, a dad whose coping mechanisms are workaholism and snapping at his son's understandable behaviors. And it gets harder to watch from there, especially if you're a parent or an educator in the know. Why is David refusing to tell his son about their shared loss? He's 11 years old. Why is the school so blind to Po's bullying for so long? Most schools these days have whole programs about preventing bullying -- or at least a playground aide to keep an eye on kids like Po, who are often easy targets. And where is this kid's IEP (individual education plan) that specifies what supports the school gives him? This is not the principal's job.

But A Boy Called Po, which is from director John Asher, who's mostly known for his work on TV, does have a few successes. Po's fantasy world may be a stretch -- it's hard to imagine it's that focused on the social when he's so into reading the Wall Street Journal -- but his realities as a kid on the spectrum touch on a lot of what many real kids and their parents experience. The food preferences, the sleeplessness, the multiple therapies, and the struggles to connect with other kids are a part of the package for many autistic kids. It's a step in the right direction in depicting this world that many parents of neurotypical kids don't often see.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how A Boy Called Po depicts its autistic character. Do you know someone with autism? Do they have similar struggles? Different ones?

  • Where else have you seen autistic characters in movies or on TV? Do you think if the statistic is true -- that one out of every 60-something people lies somewhere on the spectrum -- that this population is represented well enough in the media?

  • How does the school handle Po's bullying? Do you think it would really go on that long without someone noticing? What help is out there for kids who get bullied at school?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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