A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Explains how ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy and sensory integration therapy work for kids with autism. Also shows some challenges often faced by autistic kids: a narrow range of food preferences and interests, insomnia, echolalia (repetitive speech), running away, social-communication delays, scattered concentration, and even constipation. Shows some gifts that people on the spectrum sometimes have: extra ability with numbers and fact recall and enhanced visual-spacial abilities. Also shows the role of child social services in safeguarding kids.
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
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One kiss. Nonsexual near nudity: a boy in his underwear and sitting on the toilet.
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"Bulls--t," "dammit," "retarded," and "asses" each said once.
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Products & Purchases
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.
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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
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