Parents' Guide to

An Invisible Sign

By S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Lukewarm dramedy is OK for teens but lacks power.

Movie PG-13 2011 96 minutes
An Invisible Sign Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 16+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 13+

A Hidden Gem

I loved this movie and guess I'm one of the few based on so - so critical reviews. I think this film portrays the story of a young woman who coped with traumatic childhood experiences as best she could with the psychosocial resources she had. She is not dowdy because she likes math - she appears dowdy because she disconnects from social/worldly concepts and ideologies that serve no purpose for her or are of little value to her like fashion. The film successfully depicts her development of obsessive compulsive pathology in attempt to cope with severe losses in her life, as well as the social awkwardness that attaches itself to these circumstances. It tells the compassionate story of how her "weird" behaviors develop in a way that makes sense and helps us to better understand and empathize with these anxieties and oddities. I think this movie is misunderstood. It doesn't lack soul. It sensitively shows how we can with all our quirks (no matter how incapacitating they might seem), overcome our fears and find a way to progress. It's not about complete resolution but rather about moving forward and embracing our potential and counting our successes along the way. It does deal with very dark subject matters like child neglect but I appreciate the way the film shows a tenderness and earnestness toward identifying the need for love and security and belonging that is essential in childhood. It does not ignore these needs at all but instead requires significant resolution for healing to occur. I found this movie to be clever, sweet, empowering and delightfully entertaining.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
age 18+

Unacceptable portrayal of child abuse.

I found the cartoon scene where a family was being voluntarily dismembered in order not have one of them killed was wholly inexcusable. There is no acceptable way to do the unacceptable and to attempt to portray this in a light, cartoonish fashion only made it worse. Much worse.

This title has:

Too much violence

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2):
Kids say (3):

For a movie crowded with dramatic material -- depression, disease, family strife, genius -- AN INVISIBLE SIGN scarcely makes itself felt. It means well but has no energy, no soul. Despite sometimes stunning cinematography that soaks moments in glorious color, it's mostly devoid of life. And Alba tries very hard (sometimes too hard) with the material, but there are some basic flaws. First, who decided that math geniuses have to be dressed in stereotypically nerdy garb? Given how neurotic she is already, why must Mona also eat soap? Is it an attempt to add more quirk, as if quirkiness will magically morph into charm? (It doesn't.)

The movie has some sort-of heartwarming moments; the way that Mona rescues a young student who reminds her of herself and who's dealing with much too much sadness for her age nearly connects with the audience. But in the end, the film fails to connect.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: May 6, 2011
  • On DVD or streaming: November 1, 2011
  • Cast: Chris Messina, J.K. Simmons, Jessica Alba
  • Director: Marilyn Agrelo
  • Inclusion Information: Latinx actors
  • Studio: Ideal Partners
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 96 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: mature thematic material and some disturbing images
  • Last updated: October 8, 2022

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