Parents' Guide to

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

By S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Disappointing literary adaptation has some heavy themes.

Movie PG-13 2011 120 minutes
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

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

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 12+

Forgettable experience

This movie was based off a novel by the same name however it didn’t do justice to it. In the book, the story only takes place in the historical era but the movie included an unnecessary modern time period. The movie keeps switching back and forth between the historical and modern time frame which confuses you as to what the story is really about. Snow flower and the secret fan is pretty much forgettable movie. I rated it 12 and up because there isn’t anything in it that could be deemed too inappropriate . There is one kiss scene, a very brief sex scene between snow flower and her husband with no nudity, a man touches his wife’s foot sensually and violence and drug use is kept to a minimum as well.
age 14+

An alright movie, the novel was wonderful

I read Snow Flower and the Secret fan about 4 or 5 years ago and loved the book. It's a gripping, period story taking place in the later 1820s in China. The story focuses on the rigorous "lady lessons" endured by "Laotongs" (Sworn Sisters) Lily and Snow Flower. Together they learn to read and write in a secret women's language, become betrothed, and go through the pain of footbinding and marital distress later on. The movie compares two modern-day friends living in Shanghai, with Lily and Snow Flower, which was an interesting take, although, the movie cut out a lot of necessary information. In reality, the book was really more about footbinding and the oppression of women and girls in China at this point in time. The novel itself is incredibly descriptive, in an almost sickening way in regards to the sensory details about he agony of footbinding. The footbinding scenes portrayed in the movie were not at all graphic; the most we see is the binder wrapping the girls' feet up, and with Lily, we hear a small cracking noise when her bandages are tightened, and a speck of blood on the tip of her wraps, but nothing like what was portrayed in the novel. While Lily and Snow Flower are good role models, not everyone in the story is exactly reputable. I put sex as an issue because there are several mentions in the book (only one in the movie, I believe) of sex or, "bed business," and a scene in the film where Snow Flower's husband forces her to have sex with him instead of spending time with Lily. The scene is more hinted to than shown; all we see is Snow Flower with her husband on top of her with a blanket, but no graphic nudity. The alcohol and drug references are somewhat minor. There is drinking, but not constant mention of it, and the only drug reference was to Snow Flower's father in law, who became addicted to Opium, which was a very brief reference. As for violence, there are scenes where a rebel group overtakes the village, causing terror amongst its residents, but the violence that concerned me the most was the domestic/physical violence. There is a scene where Snow Flower's husband beats her repeatedly while they are taking refuge on the mountain. Overall, I'd give the movie a 5.5 out of 10, it wasn't a terrible movie, but it REALLY failed to follow the book and cut out what seems like half of it's vivid detail, which ultimately change the story. I'd rate this movie on for young teens 13 to 14 and older, given the somewhat graphic subject matter, and around 14 to 16 for the book, as those graphic scenes become quite a bit more severe.

This title has:

Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (2):
Kids say: Not yet rated

It's clear that the people who made the big-screen version of SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN encountered many challenges. It's often difficult adapting a novel, especially a literary one like Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, into a movie. The pitfalls are great: How to condense so much action into a seamless whole? How to translate the lyricism of words into images? What we get here is a hodge-podge of sometimes-stunning visual poetry, lethargic pacing, unevenly developed characters, unexplained motivations, and two story lines, one of which is far more compelling than the other.

Glimpses of the painful process of foot-binding and the repression of women in China's past are truncated, leaving us wanting more. Splintering the storytelling between 19th-century China and modern-day Shanghai renders the present irrelevant and, frankly, uninteresting. For all the glitter and glamour of cosmopolitan Shanghai, what's more intriguing is the history and friendships from the past. How did women cope? Why didn't the nu shu language survive? Did every woman have a laotong? So many questions, so few answers, so little satisfaction. But, hey, Hugh Jackman makes an appearance ... leaving us more perplexed than ever.

Movie Details

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