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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Traveling and learning languages can open you up to new experiences and people and also help you understand others better. Immigrants deserve rights. When people live abroad long-term, they're always missing something from their original or adopted home.
Positive Role Models
Taila and Barbara are hard workers doing tough jobs for little money. Barbara has always dreamed of traveling and maintains a positive attitude despite a cruel boss. She stands up for the values and people she believes in. Sheryl tries to help her new friends. Kat's parents try to shape Taila into a new version of their missing daughter. Kat is suspicious of Taila upon return.
The cast of the film is diverse. A character without proper documentation is captured by ICE and her son, brought to the US as a child, is at risk of deportation. The film plays on stereotypes and views Brazilians have of Americans, and vice versa.
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Violence & Scariness
All of the violence is played for comedy, but some could scare younger kids. A woman has a heart attack in an airport, where she's given CPR and hauled off on a stretcher. A woman breaks or sprains her arm skiing. A couple's daughter is said to have gone missing on a mission for the NSA; turns out she was held prisoner in a Colombian jungle. An American couple likes to hunt. They pull their rifles on two people they think are intruders. A woman ties another woman up in a basement and starts interrogating her, and it looks like she's going to torture her; later she holds her at gunpoint, but is stopped by armed police. A jealous boyfriend starts a fist fight that the police have to break up. A young man is hauled off by police and sent to immigration court; his mom is deported.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Couples kiss. A woman talks about having a "friend with benefits." A flashback tells the story of a teen who fell in love with his au pair, who was a year older, and proposed marriage to her. An unexpected pregnancy and child is uncovered years later. A woman admits she kissed her friend's boyfriend.
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"Freaking," "hell," "damn," "heck," "darn," "jerk," "geez," "Christ," "God," "hottie," "prude," "gringo." An untranslated Brazilian slang word is misused by an American in an embarrassingly funny way. The film was reviewed in Portuguese and English with English subtitles.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Taila mentions having drinks at a bar.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Secret Diary of an Exchange Student is an upbeat comedy from Brazil that is fine for tweens and up, though some aspects could fly over their heads. Most of the film is in Portuguese with English subtitles. The film has messages about living abroad, learning other languages, meeting different people, and the personal growth that can come from all of these experiences. A theme involves Americans trying to destabilize other countries' economies and exploit their resources. There's also some violence that is played for comedy but might frighten younger kids, like a woman having a heart attack, police pulling their guns on people, a couple pointing rifles at possible intruders, or a woman interrogating and considering torturing another woman she has tied up in a basement. There's romance, but we don't see anything beyond light kissing. Language in English dialogues and subtitles includes "freaking," "hell," "damn," "heck," "darn," "jerk," "geez," "Christ," "God," "hottie," "prude," and "gringo." The film plays on stereotypes and views Brazilians have of Americans, and vice versa. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
From its sweet, energetic stars to its funny and occasionally earnest commentary on crossing cultures and discovering oneself, this Brazilian comedy is kooky and charming. One of the surprises in The Secret Diary of an Exchange Student is that it maintains its upbeat pace and keeps the laughs coming throughout. Just when you think a flashback about a boy's love affair with his au pair or a subplot about a crazy missing daughter might awkwardly derail the proceedings, they manage to work their way into the admittedly meandering storyline in an amusing and meaningful way. The glue holding the film together is the positive energy and genuine affability of the lead actors, particularly Brazilians Manoela, Lopes, and Montaleone.
Diary also makes some insightful commentary about cross-cultural experiences. We see the US through the Brazilians' eyes -- Taila's conspiracy theories about the American imperialists undermining her country, Barbara's excitement seeing yellow school buses just like in the movies, the family who seems to subsist on bacon, and the apparent injustices of the US immigration system. Zoraia's comment that when you live abroad, you're always missing a piece of something from one or the other of your homes, is so astute. It's also refreshing to see American actors struggling to speak a language not their own, rather than the reverse, which also happens here but isn't as unusual to see on screen.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.