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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sold, based on the book by Patricia McCormick, is the fictional tale of one very young Nepalese girl's tragic journey from childhood to life as a sex slave in India. As harrowing as Lakshmi's story is, director Jeffrey D. Brown and his team have made a film that isn't exploitative; it's intended to educate and inspire. That said, it's always clear that Lakshmi is living in a brothel with other girls and women -- all of whom have been forced into sexual slavery. Scenes of sexual violation are kept in soft focus and are never graphic; there's no nudity. The camera stays close on Lakshmi, her face, and her reactions as she initially battles back with fury. Additional violence includes Lakshmi held captive and threatened with a knife, the girl biting and injuring her rapist, and a police raid with fighting. Note: This review is of the 54-minute PG-13 version of the movie; a longer, more intense version is also available.
What's the story?
Nothing has prepared young Lakshmi (Niyar Saikia) for the surprising journey she takes in SOLD. Living in poverty in Nepal but finding joy in her simple life, the tween girl is devastated when she learns that her father has sold her to pay for a new roof after their old one collapsed in a storm. She's told that must leave home to work for a nice family. But far away, in India, Lakshmi slowly discovers that the "nice family" is, instead, Mumtaz (Susmita Mukherjee) -- the heartless owner of a brothel called "Happiness House" -- and her staff. Lakshmi's initiation and transformation into a sex worker is shocking, both to her and to viewers. Her first encounter with a middle-aged customer becomes violent when Lakshmi resists and prevails. The girl is punished; she's broken but not bowed. She finds childlike comfort in a relationship with a little boy, the son of one of her co-workers. And somehow, from behind the bars in the window of her small room, Lakshmi connects with an American journalist (Gillian Anderson) on the city streets who may be her only salvation.
Is it any good?
Beautifully photographed and featuring remarkable performances from two children, this film and its director Jeffrey D. Brown has captured horrific subject matter in a relatively gentle way. By telling one very personal story, the film promotes awareness of child sex trafficking and the efforts being made to combat it. In concert with Childreach International, a London-based development charity and the "Taught Not Trafficked" campaign, this film is aimed at educating the public, inspiring activism, and soliciting funds on behalf of more than 5 million child victims. A 97-minute version of Sold was shown and earned awards at many film festivals prior to its theatrical release; this review is of the 54-minute PG-13 version.
Talk to your kids about ...
Why do you think the filmmakers (and the author of the book the movie was based on) chose to tell a fictional story rather than a true one? Do you think fiction makes difficult subject matter easier for audiences to absorb? If so, why?
Sold's goals are to educate and inspire a response to the sex trafficking of children. The filmmakers' point of view is clear, but why is it essential for viewers to understand the motives behind issue-oriented movies? If this movie has educated and/or inspired you, in what ways might you help the cause?
- In theaters: April 1, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: January 10, 2017
- Cast: Niyar Saikia, Gillian Anderson, David Arquette
- Director: Jeffrey D. Brown
- Studio: Roco Films
- Genre: Drama
- Character Strengths: Courage, Empathy, Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 54 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: disturbing thematic material involving the trafficking of children
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.