Little Big Women

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Little Big Women Movie Poster Image
Poignant, complex family drama has mature themes.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 123 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Family ties are strong. Siblings with little in common still stand up for each other. A mother who lived with anger at the husband who left her can find forgiveness and move on. Financial fraud leads to family embarrassment.

Positive Role Models

Shoying has been a tough family leader who had to support three young kids after her husband left, turning her street food stand into a famed, successful restaurant.


A daughter was given up for adoption. A character dies in a hospital. Someone has cancer.


A husband was known for cheating.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults use alcohol and cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Little Big Women is a Taiwanese family drama, spanning three generations, with flashbacks to harder times and a present that confronts death and its equilibrium-toppling effects. This is a complicated, sentimental story that looks at unfaithfulness, divorce, family secrets, money troubles, and every kind of family relationship. A daughter was given up for adoption. A character dies in a hospital. Someone has cancer. Some drinking and smoking. There isn't much in the way of language, sex, or drug use to upset younger viewers, but given the film's patient pace and mature themes, older teens will probably get the most out of it. The movie was a box office success in Taiwan and the lead actress, at 81, won Taiwan's top acting award, The Golden Horse. In Mandarin with English subtitles.

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What's the story?

In LITTLE BIG WOMEN, Lin Shoying (Chen Shu-Fang) is the domineering family matriarch, slowly giving up the famed restaurant she created to her youngest daughter JiaJia (Ke-Fang Sun) while still exerting the control she can. On the day of her 70th birthday celebration, resentments abound between her and her other two grown daughters, the spirited and restless dancer Ching (Ying-Xuan Hsieh), and over-serious doctor Yu (Vivian Hsu). Shoying wishes Yu wouldn't send her darling granddaughter Clementine (Chen Yan-Fei) to the United States to study, and she wishes Ching, recently recovered from cancer, would settle down. But much remains unspoken until Bochang (Weber Yang), the girls' father, dies on Shoying's birthday in a nearby hospital after decades of absence. Shoying had never granted a divorce to the philandering, gambling charmer and now she must watch her daughters express their love and grief for the man who ruined her life. Emotions run high as Shoying airs her justified grievances but also sees her own errors and apologizes. 

Is it any good?

The exoticism of a foreign culture mixed with the ordinariness and universality of the characters' worries and longings combine to make this a powerful and touching drama. Little Big Women (don't be distracted by the weak title) is to some degree a story about women, but as it shows us youth and old age, financial struggles and comfort, flashbacks and the present, and spans three generations of bright and capable women, patterns emerge that apply to all of our lives. The aging mother, still furious decades later at the husband who abandoned her, can't believe her daughters could be sad when that same irresponsible father dies, especially after she worked so hard to raise those girls on her own. But writer-director Joseph Chen-Chieh Hsu gives us a woman who isn't beyond performing an act of gracious acceptance. The movie embraces the way we can long for what we lost, but also acknowledge affection for the mistakes we made, and find forgiveness for others and ourselves.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way that every member of the family had her own reasons for being angry and sad. What are some of the reasons that Shoying resented her husband after he left her to care for their three young kids?

  • How does the movie portray the father who left? Does he seem like a bad man or a decent guy?

  • What does the movie say about how it's possible to look at the same person from different points of view?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love family tales

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