Shine Your Eyes

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Shine Your Eyes Movie Poster Image
Brazil-set tale has mature themes of family, immigration.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 102 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Brazil's multiracial society, made up of immigrants from all over, is depicted as generally warm and welcoming despite some dilapidated settings. Men care for their aging parents and fulfill familial responsibilities.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Amadi is portrayed as a gentle, caring, and intelligent man. He shows great loyalty to his family when he crosses the Atlantic to search for his older brother, his mother's favorite. Characters offer Amadi help and kindness though he's virtually a stranger to them and despite language barriers. Ikenna appears to be losing his mind.


The story of Ikenna's unraveling is unsettling. In searching for him, Amadi finds himself in settings that feel potentially dangerous, like an abandoned building where squatters live and a shady nightclub, though no harm comes to him. Amadi smashes his brother's childhood guitar. A story is told of an ancestor in Nigeria who was beaten for converting to Christianity and wearing a gown, and Amadi is told he carries the curse of that relative inside him. Ikenna is said to have been reincarnated inside Amadi and suggests he can control his actions.


Characters oversee a man watching pornography on his television, which is shown explicitly, but from afar, and with some key private parts covered by the man's shoulder. It's implied Amadi and Emilia, Ikenna's former girlfriend, spend the night together in one scene; in another, they appear to be having sex, but we only see them from the necks up, kissing. Amadi finds a picture of his topless brother in a friend's house, maybe suggesting the two men had a relationship.


"Bastard." "Bulls--t."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink what looks like beer in several party or bar scenes. A man in a club smokes. Amadi says his father "was a drunk."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shine Your Eyes offers a unique look into the world of Nigerian Igbo and other immigrants in a major South American metropolis. These are communities and settings that most American viewers are likely unfamiliar with. The story of a man searching for his missing brother explores what people can gain and lose when they emigrate, in terms of relationships and their own identities. As the main character follows the trail of his older brother's disappearance, he ventures into some seedier locales and embarks on a love affair with a local woman. Some scenes could feel unsettling for younger viewers. The characters also spend a night together, where all we see on screen is kissing, and they oversee a man watching a graphic pornography scene on his television, which is shown explicitly but from afar and with some key private parts covered by the man's shoulder. Language includes "bastard" and "bulls--t." Some drinking and smoking.

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What's the story?

Amadi (OC Ukeje) is sent by his mother from Nigeria to Brazil to find his brother, Ikenna (Chukwudi Iwuji), a math professor who has fallen out of contact with his family, in SHINE YOUR EYES. Ikenna is the beloved first-born, and in that role he shoulders numerous familial responsibilities back home. Upon arrival in Sao Paulo, Amadi discovers that nothing is as Ikenna has portrayed it in his emails and photos home. Amadi stays with an uncle and forges close relationships with Ikenna's friends as he searches for his brother. Clues suggest Ikenna has not only been misrepresenting his life in Brazil, but may also be losing his hold on reality. Does Ikenna have rational explanations for his behavior? Will Amadi find his brother and take him home to Nigeria, or will the new life Amadi is discovering in Sao Paulo pull him in as well?

Is it any good?

This is a sensitive and thoughtful movie that invites the viewer to decipher themes and ideas suggested in both the story and the way it's filmed. Responsibility for this tale ringing true rests entirely on the shoulders of actor OC Ukeje, who plays Amadi. We view this foreign city, Sao Paulo, through his eyes, and as the star of just about every scene in the film, Ukeje deftly communicates his character's internal struggles with family and culture as well as the foreigner's wonder, confusion, apprehension, and need to trust in others.

Director Matias Mariani underscores these conflicting sensations by conspicuously framing characters within the triangular angles of Sao Paulo's urban constructions. Set up as a mystery, the untangling of the missing brother's circumstances is much less interesting than Amadi's own journey of discovery. That may be why the relationships Amadi forms in Sao Paulo and his own internal battles make for compelling storylines that carry Shine Your Eyes, while a scene of reunion toward the end meant to be climactic feels a little disappointing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Shine Your Eyes' setting in Sao Paulo, Brazil. What do you know about this city and country? Is what you saw on screen anything like what you might have imagined?

  • Amadi and Ikenna are from the Nigerian ethnic group called the Igbo people. What customs or ideas specific to their culture did you gather from this film? How could you learn more?

  • What did you think of the decisions Amadi makes at the end of the film? Would you have done things differently? Why or why not?

  • There are many scenes shot from interesting angles above, outside, or inside of buildings and roadways. Did you notice any of these specifically? What do you think the director was trying to convey with this framing?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love foreign films

Themes & Topics

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