A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Attempts to grapple with complex issues like racial identity and police brutality, but ill-informed dialogue and poor character development lessen its impact.
Positive Role Models
Brings three central characters together to address race and police brutality. One character is Black, two police officers are White, and the son at the center of the story is biracial. Tension builds as they explore their different perspectives, but the movie stays very surface-level. It seems more concerned with those topics as buzzwords than in actually digging into complex issues.
Violence & Scariness
Violence, gun violence specifically, is central. A character is revealed to have been fatally shot in the head. No violence is seen on-screen. Arguments get very heated as tension builds throughout.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sex is only spoken about, and not in depth.
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Profanity is used frequently. Lots of racially charged language, including the "N" word and some racist euphemisms.
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Products & Purchases
The brand of car the son was driving is mentioned repeatedly.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Features some conversation around drinking and drugs, but no actual drinking or drug use is depicted. Part of the off-screen story involves teenagers buying marijuana.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that American Son is a Netflix original movie that deals with issues of racism, racial identity, and police brutality. Starring Kerry Washington, the movie is based on a Broadway play of the same name and features the same cast. It's very dialogue-heavy, as characters argue their perspectives and experiences on complex subjects. Unfortunately, the film stays at an uninformed surface level while exploring these mature themes, so it's not a great introduction to discussions about how race and police brutality are intertwined. Strong language is frequent and includes the "N" word. Violence, specifically gun violence, is central to the story but is all off-screen, and part of the storyline involves characters buying marijuana, which is also off-screen. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Movie adaptations of stage plays can be tricky, if for no other reason than that theater is a verbal medium while film is visual. American Son, based on a 2018 Broadway play with the same cast, has minimal visual intrigue and relies almost solely on its dialogue to drive the narrative. It is, effectively, a 90-minute argument about race, racial identity, and police brutality. But American Son chooses pure melodrama over thoughtful, informed debate, so it consistently undermines any real impact it could have.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.