The Namesake

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Namesake Movie Poster Image
Fabulous immigrant-family saga to see with teens.
  • PG-13
  • 2007
  • 122 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

A Bengali man born in the United States learns that the meaning of his name is a path to understanding his parents and his heritage. Themes include empathy and humility.

Positive Role Models & Representations

One episode of discrimination angers Gogol, but his father reminds him to look past the incident. Indian parents praise the United States for providing better opportunities for their children.


It's not "violence" per se, but a scene depicting the aftermath of a deadly train accident includes bloody dead bodies. A character shrieks in grief on two separate occasions.


Partial nudity -- Gogol and his girlfriend undress in front of each other (his bare chest and her entire backside are visible). In another love scene, Gogol and his girlfriend fool around and are shown in bed, but there's no nudity. Gogol and his wife, both robed, dance Bollywood-style and then tumble onto their bed. Ashoke and Ashima make love semi-clothed. A character discusses her many lovers.


"S--t," "ass," etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Gogol smokes a joint at his high-school graduation and drinks socially on several occasions. A few characters smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Namesake is a mature drama about two generations of a Bengali family living in New York is a great movie to watch with your teens. Like most immigrant narratives, the story includes deaths, births, marriages, break-ups, and other important milestones that mark a family's history. A son's disinterest in his Indian culture -- and his unusual name, Gogol -- is the central theme of the film. Like most immigrant children, he and his sister sometimes ridicule and resent their parents' traditions. The mature subject matter includes arranged marriage, adultery, discrimination, cultural differences, parental deaths, and -- most important -- self-identity. A brief scene shows the victims of a train crash, and there are a few passionate love scenes.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byChris_Feher May 20, 2020

Not My Favorite Movie

Just because I don't like it much, obviously does not mean its a bad movie. In fact, it is really well made with a great plot, amazing acting, and a good m... Continue reading
Parent Written bypoomas May 20, 2015


Teen, 17 years old Written byMaya16 October 30, 2016

Great movie for parents and teens to watch together

I enjoy this movie. It reminds you about how cultures are different.

What's the story?

Based on Jhumpa Lahiri's acclaimed novel, THE NAMESAKE is a heartfelt depiction of two generations of a Bengali-American family. At the center of the story is Gogol Ganguli (Kal Penn), the oddly named son of a professor and his traditional Indian wife. He's late to his high-school graduation party because he's passing around a joint with his best pals. And after graduating from Yale, he prefers to hang out with his Manhattan-bred (read: "white") girlfriend and her wealthy parents than visit his parents in Westchester. But a sudden tragedy brings him home, both physically and emotionally. In dealing with his intense grief, Gogol rediscovers the meaning of his name, which is tied not only to the Russian author his father admired but a life-changing event in his father's life. Gogol's reexamination leads him to a new life with a fiercely modern -- but still Bengali -- wife and a deeper appreciation for his parents.

Is it any good?

Mira Nair's adaptation faithfully and richly translates the much-loved book and as Gogol, Kal Penn perfectly emotes the complexity of being raised in the States by immigrant parents. Yet while the titular character is Penn's, the movie's strength lies in Gogol's parents, Ashima and Ashoke, who are played by Indian stars Tabu (a gorgeous actress with glowing skin and telling eyes) and Irfan Khan (a quiet force throughout the film). They're the true immigrants, dealing with the radical cultural shift between their homeland and the United States. The kids grow up mostly American, but the parents must constantly navigate both worlds.

Powerful family films are rare, especially when most cinematic families consist of idiot husbands, their long-suffering wives, and annoyed kids. For once, forego the belly laughs (although the film offers plenty of funny moments) and experience the touching journey that is The Namesake.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Namesake's themes of immigration and identity. If your family is from another country, discuss what makes your cultural heritage distinct.

  • Kids: Do you feel like Gogol and Sonia when it comes to your customs? And if you aren't from another country, what parts of the relationship between parents and kids are universal?

  • Families can also discuss how the media treat other cultures -- and immigrants -- in general. Do some groups get treated differently from others? Why?

  • How do the characters in The Namesake demonstrate empathy and humility? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

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