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.