Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Adu Movie Poster Image
Heart-wrenching, violent refugee story has language, drugs.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 119 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

People need to take care of and help each other, but telling people how to live their lives isn't the way to go about it. We have to take better care of refugees, especially kids. Walls and fences meant to keep people out only create more problems, including tragic loss.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Adu is a very strong role model for courage, resilience, and perseverance. He and his sister model a loving sibling relationship. Later, Adu's friend Massar models courage, loyalty, and perseverance, too. Police officer Mateo clearly feels guilty about an incident involving the death of a refugee, but he remains loyal to his fellow officer and doesn't come forward with the truth. Later he seems to lessen some of his guilty feelings in a role helping others. Gonzalo isn't very likable. He wants to help save African elephants from poachers, but goes about it all wrong. He's overprotective and tries to be controlling of his rebellious daughter, but in the end is able to really help her in an unexpected way. Lots of positive representations of people from different parts of Africa. There aren't many women in the cast, but the Spanish women are professionals in positions of authority. The two African women seen briefly are positive models of caring and nurturing.


Some blood and gore from an elephant carcass being sawn and hacked for parts, a man stuck in barbed wire, a long fall ending with blood pooling around the head, and a couple of bloody noses and mouths. Scariness and distress from a brutal beating, poachers shooting at an elephant, gunshots, animal and human cries of fear and pain, grainy night-vision footage, a frozen body, a fall from an airplane, violent separation from loved ones, an implied police beating, and an adult attempting sexual assault on a child. The child's shirt is lifted, chest rubbed, he tries to escape, and is rescued before anything else happens. An adult punches a teen and slaps a child. Murder is implied with the sound of a gunshot and a flash of light. A past sexual assault is remembered and described vaguely.


 It's implied that a teen has sex for money, but nothing explicit is shown. A nightclub scene briefly shows three people kissing and making out.


In translation mostly from Spanish and French, "f--k," "s--t," "Jesus Christ," "damn," "bitch," and the middle-finger gesture.


A few labels seen briefly and indistinctly on bottle and cans. An aging Coca-Cola sign in the background.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A teen or young adult admits to smoking marijuana, taking MDMA, and doing a couple of lines of cocaine. A cake of what could be hash or heroin is discovered in her luggage. She smokes what she says is tobacco and blows the smoke at her father so that he can smell whether it's marijuana or not. Many minor and background characters smoke. Main characters smoke occasionally. Adults drink beer, wine, and occasionally hard alcohol on social occasions. A scene in a nightclub shows drinking to excess in passing.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Adu is a drama in Spanish and French with English subtitles, centered on a 6-year-old boy's journey from Cameroon to Spain after he's separated from his mother. Violence shows some blood and gore. An elephant carcass is shown being sawn and hacked for parts. There's an attempted sexual assault of a child. A fall ends with blood pooling around the head. A man's bloody abdomen is shown while he's stuck in barbed wire. There's a brutal beating and several fights that show bloody noses and mouths. Lots of scariness from characters in danger, grainy night-vision footage, a frozen body, gunshots with cries of fear and pain, and traumatic separations from loved ones. One character admits to using marijuana, MDMA, and cocaine. A brown cake of something illegal is found in her luggage. Background and minor characters smoke; main characters smoke occasionally. Strong language is translated and includes "f--k" and "s--t." Three people kiss and make out together in a nightclub. Adults drink alcohol mainly on social occasions; one scene briefly shows excess drinking. Not everything has a safe resolution. It's a good opening to talk about big-picture problems like refugees, immigration, and conservation. It's also an opportunity to talk about how we care for one another and how we can help each other, both within our own families and as a society.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byFarfalle36 July 6, 2020


It is a cruel reality That the world is facing and tender at the same time , how he found angels to help him
Teen, 14 years old Written byQuesoreview March 14, 2021

Great movie

I think this is an amazing movie, but it does include some sad deaths, a dead elephant with trunks cut off, a girl freezes to death, a man falls off... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byCool Kidz. February 13, 2021

Meh... Not for little kids to watch alone.

Not a movie you want to see a 2nd time. I'm going to call out a few things. There's some violence at the beginning! A lot of swearing throughout the m... Continue reading

What's the story?

ADU tell three different stories with themes, people, and places that come together at different times. Adu (Moustapha Oumarou) is 6 years old and lives in Cameroon with his mother and sister. He and his sister are forced to flee when their mother is killed. They go on a long, difficult journey to find their father in Spain, enduring many hardships and losses along the way. Gonzalo (Luis Tosar) is a consultant from Spain, in Cameroon to help stop elephant poachers. While he's in Africa, his rebellious and troubled daughter (Anna Castillo) joins him there. The two are really strangers to each other and have to forge a relationship from the ground up. Mateo (Alvaro Cervantes) is a border patrol guard in Melilla, one of two sovereign Spanish cities on the continent of Africa and surrounded by Morocco. An incident on the border fence ends with a refugee's death, and Mateo's unit is under investigation. Mateo struggles with the guilt he feels over the incident and loyalty to his fellow officers.

Is it any good?

This is a gripping, thoughtful movie that's sometimes hard to watch, but packs real emotional punch and is so thought-provoking that it's well worth it. The performances in Adu are all strong, it's beautifully photographed, and the three stories unfold and intertwine in ways that keep you in your seat. The actors playing the three youngest characters especially have a lot of magnetism on screen. Not every storyline is resolved, and one is especially frustrating and heartbreaking, so keep a box of tissues handy.

There's a lot of food for thought about problems both large-scale and personal. It'll get viewers thinking about refugees, wildlife conservation, what role or obligations industrialized countries have toward developing countries, what roles or obligations family members have to one another, friendship, justice, and so much more. Violence and adult themes make it best for mature teens and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Adu. How much is too much? Is it realistic? Does it make the story more compelling or believable? Why or why not?

  • What make Adu a good role model? What character strengths does he show? Which characters do you admire the most?

  • What did you learn about refugees? Did you notice the statistic at the end about the number of children who flee their homes? How can we as individuals help? What should the role of governments be to manage the crisis?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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