Southside with You

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Southside with You Movie Poster Image
Witty, winning, but sometimes long-winded tale of love.
  • PG-13
  • 2016
  • 81 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

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

Positive Messages

It takes empathy, curiosity, and real conversation to truly get to know someone. That also means letting yourself be vulnerable, which takes its own kind of courage.

Positive Role Models & Representations

As portrayed here, young Barack Obama is an idealist who knows how to listen to people and is genuinely interested in their well-being. When he's wrong, he's willing to admit it and remedy it. Michelle is depicted as a devoted daughter who's keenly aware of the sociological forces that stand in the way of women, especially black women, and success in the workplace. She dreams of changing the world. 


A scene from the movie Do the Right Thing that shows a man being choked by the police plays a pivotal part in the film, and there's discussion about race riots. Also frank discussion about racist treatment in the Ivy Leagues.


A quick kiss. 


Infrequent swearing includes "s--t," "ass," "damn," and one use of "f--k."


Baskin-Robbins shows up in a scene. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some beer drinking at a bar. Smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Southside with You re-creates (with dramatic license) Barack and Michelle Obama's Before Sunrise-esque first date in 1989, long before their time in the White House. The two main characters are portrayed as idealists who are determined to change the world for the better. Expect some social drinking (beer), smoking, and swearing (including one use of "f--k"), as well as and lots and lots of conversation, much of it thought-provoking and compelling. Characters talk about about race riots and racist treatment in the Ivy Leagues. Themes include empathy, curiosity, and courage -- especially the kind it takes to allow yourself to be vulnerable to someone else.

User Reviews

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Teen, 17 years old Written bymcashd55 March 5, 2017

Southside With You (It's not "NO", it's "carry on")

This movie is good. Younger kids will find it boring. There is nothing inappropriate about it. I wish the movie wasn't just about their first date. It woul... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byowleyes1316 September 30, 2016

Boring for younger kids

There isn't really any inappropriate stuff in this movie. The main characters go to a bar and drink alcohol, and Barack Obama smokes a cigarette throughou... Continue reading

What's the story?

In SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU, Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumter) is working at a law firm as a second-year associate. Despite her reluctance, she agrees to hang out with a first-year associate/former community organizer named Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers). He's intelligent, thoughtful, sometimes combative, often amusing, and always a good listener -- all of which endears him to her, even though he smokes and is sometimes presumptuous. No one who wasn't there can say exactly what transpired in real life when the Obamas met each other, but this film attempts to put us right in the thick of things.

Is it any good?

One of the biggest pleasures of this romantic drama is watching two conversational and intellectual heavyweights go toe-to-toe on their first date (or rather, non-date). Southside with You is full of interesting dialog and discussions that really follow the natural arc of conversations. Kudos to Sumter and Sawyers, who -- in the way they depict everything from how Barack lights a cigarette to how Michelle defuses an argument -- reveal both the strengths and the challenges of this relationship. Like the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight series, this movie depends on its stars' verbal and mental dexterity, and they don't disappoint. Sawyers has nearly all of the president's mannerisms down: His walk has the confident grace; his cadence, the oratorical patterns of the actual president.

Sometimes watching Southside with You does feel a bit like eavesdropping on a conversation that's better left private, and the pace can get frustratingly slow. And sometimes, given that the two characters, after all, eventually become the president and first lady, it can feel like you're watching Mom and Dad go on their first date. But overall, it's worth it to be the third wheel, so to speak. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how accurate you think Southside with You is. Why might filmmakers choose to alter/change what happened in a movie based on a true story? How can you find out more about what happened?

  • How do the characters demonstrate empathy? Why is that an important character strength?

  • Barack and Michelle discuss racism and sexism very frankly; what do you think of their conversations? Are they relatable? Thought-provoking?

  • What's the significance of Do the Right Thing in the movie -- and during the summer that it came out?

  • What do you think this first date/non-date signifies for both Barack and Michelle, personally and professionally? Is it strange to watch the courtship of public figures? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance and drama

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