Funny Boy

Movie review by
Kat Halstead, Common Sense Media
Funny Boy Movie Poster Image
Queer coming-of-age story has violence and racism.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 109 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Stands out for positive messages.

Positive Messages

Courage, curiosity, and perseverance are all on show. Not being defined by cultural and social expectations. Staying true to yourself.

Positive Role Models

Arjie is sweet-natured, curious, and open-minded. Many members of his family are seen to have traditional values, which they enforce upon their children, such as arranged marriage, gender roles, and discriminatory behavior between Tamil and Sinhalese -- which is seen taken to the extreme as factions of both sides break out into violent civil war.

Violence

Instances of bullying. Characters are slapped, have their ears twisted, are punched, and receive cuts to the face. A train is raided and characters are stabbed and seen lying in pools of blood. The aftermath of a massacre is shown on the news, including naked dead bodies and mention of terrorism. Reference is made to rape and the death of family members. A meat market shows chickens in distress and blood on the floor.

Sex

There is kissing, naked dancing, and characters lying in bed together after having sex. Full nudity is shown from behind.

Language

Occasional use of "f---ing," "bastards," "bitch," "hell," and "bloody." Children use terms such as "fatty" and "fatso," and homophobic language including "pansy," "sissy," and "f-g."

Consumerism

Brief reference to buying music and memorabilia from the West.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke cigarettes on a few occasions.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Funny Boy is a coming-of-age story -- set against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan civil war -- about a young boy exploring his homosexuality in a country where it is illegal. The story follows the life of Arjie (played at first by Arush Nand and later by Brandon Ingram), a Tamil boy, as he comes to terms with first being gay and then falling in love with a Sinhalese classmate. There is some nudity and characters are seen laying in bed together after sex. Racist behavior is depicted by both Tamil and Sinhalese characters, as well as fatal violence as factions of both sides clash. This includes characters being stabbed and left in pools of blood. There is also some examples of bullying and references to rape. Occasional strong language is used, including "f---ing" and "bastards," as well as homophobic terms. The movie touches upon gender roles and cultural traditions including arranged marriage. Cigarettes are smoked on a few occasions. While the movie includes many adult themes, it also has warm and uplifting scenes, as well as moments of humor. The movie is in Tamil, Sinhalese, and English, with subtitles.

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What's the story?

In FUNNY BOY, young Tamil boy, Arjie (Arush Nand), is beginning to explore his sexuality. While his father attempts to quash his "girly tendencies," his free-spirited aunt shares secret make-up sessions and encourages his individuality. As he moves into his teenaged years, Arjie (now played by Brandon Ingram) falls for his Sinhalese classmate Shehan (Rehan Mudannayake) -- a relationship doomed both due to the illegality of homosexuality and the tensions between the two ethnicities during a time of civil war.

Is it any good?

Adapted from Shyam Selvaduri's novel of the same name, director Deepa Mehta's imbues the story of a boy coming of age against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan civil war with warmth and humor. With both young and older Arjie (Nand and Ingram) delivering intimate, captivating performances -- alongside the poignant technique of momentarily switching the young and old actors to connect the journey -- the movie is engrossing at every turn. Early scenes are rich with color and a sense of near-freedom, as Arjie dresses as a bride with his friends and later shares secrets and make-up sessions with his free-spirited aunt (Agam Darshi) who teaches him that nobody messes with "the grand diva."

As the movie develops, similar abandon is seen in scenes with Arjie's boyfriend, Shehan, as the two bond over Western music and dance naked together, full of joy. While impacting on the story throughout, the atrocities of the civil war are very much a backdrop here. The movie has caused some controversy in its portrayal of the Tamil experience, as well as the decision to cast non-Tamil actors in Tamil parts, some of whom struggled with the language. Yet, as a story of burgeoning sexuality and self-discovery, amid familial, cultural, and political turmoil, Funny Boy truly soars.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Funny Boy depicts the challenges Arjie faces growing up. Is the movie respectful of and empathetic to his situation? Does it give viewers a deeper understanding of the social and cultural forces that shape his life? Do you think Arjie would face the same challenges today?

  • Discuss the violence in the movie. What role does war play in the story? How to talk to kids about violence, crime, and war.

  • How does the movie convey themes of courage, curiosity and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths?

  • Discuss the some of the language -- including homophobic slurs -- used. Does it seem necessary or excessive? What does it contribute to the movie?

  • How is gender explored within the movie?

Movie details

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