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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that So B. It is a touching coming-of-age drama about a 12-year-old girl named Heidi (Talitha Bateman) who's growing up in isolation because she lives with her intellectually disabled mother and a family friend who has agoraphobia and can't leave the house. These characters' limitations are treated with respect, and they're loved and given dignity and understanding, with their needs considered. Heidi goes on a long journey alone, essentially running away in the middle of the night, but she's never in any real danger and meets people who treat her with kindness. A tragic death late in the movie may upset young or sensitive viewers; Heidi's plight may also be disturbing to some viewers. But tweens and teens will relate to the character and may be inspired by her strength, perseverance, and courage. The movie is based on the same-named novel by Sarah Weeks.
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What's the story?
Twelve years ago, Heidi (Talitha Bateman) and her intellectually disabled mother, who's known only as SO B. IT (Jessica Collins), arrived on the doorstep of Bernadette (Alfre Woodard). Heidi was a baby, and So B. It can speak only 23 understandable words, so Bernie never knew where they came from or why they were alone in the world. But she knew that Heidi and her mom needed help, so she cared for both of them, home-schooling Heidi as best she could, since Bernadette's crippling agoraphobia prevents her from leaving the house. When a sudden discovery throws their world out of balance, Heidi wonders just who she is and where she came from. So she sets out on a journey of self-discovery that brings her far from the people and places she knows.
Is it any good?
Sad, beautiful, and unique, this sympathetic coming-of-age tale based on Sarah Weeks' novel about a determined young girl with a mysterious past will resonate with adults, tweens, and teens. It's not that Heidi is unhappy, exactly, even though she seems to know only one child her own age, and even though her mom, while loving, needs Heidi to care for her rather than the other way around. But, like most 12-year-olds, Heidi is starting to question the staus quo. Why are things the way they are? Where's the rest of her family? Who took care of her mom before they landed in Bernadette's lap? Since Bernadette has no answers, Heidi digs into the mystery on her own -- and what she finds is neither pleasant nor simple.
What's ultimately uplifting about a story that could be really depressing is So B. It's focus not just on the terrible things that can happen to people but also on how the love and support of other people -- blood relations or not -- can make these realities bearable. Heidi's past is tragic, her present complicated. But she is loved, and she is accepted. And So B. It's ultimate sweet message is that sometimes that's enough.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how So B. It handles tough topics like disability, isolation, and even death. Are kids ready to deal with these issues? How can media help families address them?
The movie's characters frequently understand and accept the limitations of the people around them. What value does that have to those who are accepted? What about to the person who accepts others' imperfections?
Do you empathize with Heidi? Is it realistic that a person would be so driven to find out about their past? Do Heidi's actions ultimately improve her life?
If you've seen the book the movie is based on, how does it compare? What's the same? What was changed?
- In theaters: October 6, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: January 9, 2018
- Cast: Alfre Woodard, Cloris Leachman, Talitha Bateman
- Director: Stephen Gyllenhaal
- Studio: Good Deed Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some thematic elements
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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