A Sun

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
A Sun Movie Poster Image
Powerful, mature family drama with violence, swearing.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 156 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Explores complicated relationships in families: sibling rivalry, parental approval or disapproval, effects of tragedy on fragile connections. Asks if redemption is ever possible, and under what circumstances. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Complexity is key: lead characters undergo significant changes, mostly for the better, as the story is told. Dishonest, unforgiving behaviors slowly, and painfully, give way to compassion, loyalty, and unconditional love. 

Violence

An early brutal scene in which a man's hand is chopped off by a machete. Beatings, threats, and intimidation in a juvenile detention center.  A lengthy sequence finds an angry man spewing excrement from a sewage truck with abandon.

Sex
Language

Occasional profanity: "f--k," "s--t," "ass."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Sun is a Taiwanese film released in Mandarin that's streaming on Netflix with English subtitles. At more than two-and-a-half hours in length, the movie covers several years in the lives of one intricately complex family. It's a highly emotional film, with finely-detailed characters confronting and negotiating difficult, life-changing events and relationships. On-screen violence includes an early brutal scene in which a man's hand is gruesomely chopped off by a machete. Later sequences show fighting and a young man intimidated and beaten by a gang of delinquents. In addition, there are both suspenseful story elements and very sad moments. Viewers can expect occasional expletives, i.e., "f--k," "s--t," and "ass." Characters smoke. A lengthy sequence finds an angry man spewing excrement from a sewage truck with abandon. For mature teens only, this movie may evoke thoughtful discussion about the dynamics and universality of "family."

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What's the story?

In A SUN's explosive opening sequence, a volatile young hooligan is arrested after he chops off the hand of an enemy. His trouble-prone teen accomplice, A-Ho (Wu Chien-Ho), is sentenced to three years in juvenile detention. A-Ho's dad, Wen (Chen Yi-Wen) is unforgiving and encourages the court to harshly punish the boy. He denounces A-Ho, and declares that he now has only one son, A-Hoa (Xu Guang-Han), a sterling student and outstanding young man. A-Ho's mother Miss Quin (Samantha Ho) is devastated. Only a short time later, young Xiao-Yu (Wu Dai-Ling) appears at Wen's home; she's pregnant with A-Ho's child. As Miss Quin deals with this second calamity, Wen remains unmovable. Even though he's facing challenges of his own, A-Hoa offers solace and support to both his mother and the fragile Xiao-Yu. Then, a heartbreaking tragedy occurs and the family is shattered. The next years follow their unsteady attempts to heal. A child is born; A-Ho is released; Wen faces another father's fury. Only when a new threat faces the family will they have a chance to restore the delicate balance of their lives. 

Is it any good?

Writer-director Chung Mong-Hong has created a gem. Stunning performances breathe life into masterfully-drawn characters in a story that is as relevant and surprising as it is emotionally satisfying. The universality of experiences and family relationships in this tale set in Taiwan are what make this multiple-award winning film especially effective. A Sun is long, but remarkably compelling. Scenes are deliberate, but never feel slow. Most viewers, in any language, will be fully engaged, rooting for these flawed, relatable, struggling people as they make their way through difficult times. Kudos to the entire production: cinematography, editing, music, and art direction are all excellent. Highly recommended for mature teens and their families. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the value of seeing films made in other countries and/or cultures. What did you learn about the Taiwanese family in A Sun that was relatable to your own family? How was the community in which they lived similar or different from yours? Were you surprised by the similarities or differences? 

  • A-Hoa's story was shocking and sad. As you look back, think about which events or moments the filmmakers included to foreshadow what A-Hoa was contemplating.

  • What is a "character arc?" Wen, the father, had the most profound character arc. What events or moments motivated his evolving behavior? How did your feelings about Wen change?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love family tales

Themes & Topics

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