The Zigzag Kid

Movie review by
Grace Montgomery, Common Sense Media
The Zigzag Kid Movie Poster Image
Subtitled, sweet coming-of-age caper has mature themes.
  • NR
  • 2012
  • 95 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Be true to yourself and embrace what makes you different. Curiosity and integrity are major themes. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nono shows his family that it's better to know the truth, even if it's difficult to hear. Felix teaches Nono to embrace who he is.


Slapstick violence and suspense. A policeman points a gun at a criminal and is accidentally shot in the arm. Felix carries a gun. Nono points a gun at Felix in anger. The details of a character's suicide by drowning are discussed.


Details of adult relationships are discussed. Felix is described as a man of a thousand lovers. An adult couple kisses.


"Merde" ("s--t" in French) said three times but not translated in the subtitles.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink wine at dinner. A character smokes a pipe.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Zigzag Kid is a subtitled film from the Netherlands based on a book by David Grossman that has dialogue in French, Dutch, and English. Set in the late '60s and early '70s, this coming-of-age story about a 12-year-old boy trying to discover the truth about his past has some mature themes, including suicide and mental illness, making it best for older tweens and up. There's also some talk about relationships, a couple of kisses, and references to an adult's amorous past. A policeman points a gun at a criminal and is accidentally shot in the arm. Felix carries a gun, and Nono points a gun at Felix in anger. Adults drink wine with dinner, and one smokes a pipe. "Merde" ("s--t" in French) is said three times, though it's not translated in the subtitles.

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What's the story?

In THE ZIGZAG KID, 12-year-old Nono's father (Fedja van Huêt) is a top police inspector and is determined to train Nono (Thomas Simon) to follow in his footsteps. But the truth about Nono's absent mother, Zohara, is a mystery he's unable to solve. When a zany stunt lands Nono in his cousin's bar mitzvah cake, he's sent to his uncle to learn how to curb his more wild tendencies. But when Felix (Burghart Klaußner), a notorious thief, shows up on the train and tells Nono he's been sent by his father to give him his last training to be a top inspector, Nono knows it's his chance to finally the solve the mystery of Zohara. But as he discovers that Felix isn't exactly who he says he is, Nono has to decide how far he's going to go to discover the secrets of his past.

Is it any good?

Zany and fun, but also nuanced and bittersweet, this lovely coming-of-age story is a treat. Nono's past is beautifully brought to life in whimsical imaginative scenarios that range from laugh-out-loud funny to heartbreakingly sad in flashback scenes reminiscent of Amelie. And the bold retro style and fun soundtrack will appeal to kids and adults alike.

More sensitive tweens may find the final details about Nono's past upsetting, but The Zigzag Kid doesn't wallow in the darker themes. Its ultimate message about embracing yourself, no matter how different you are, is beautifully presented, making this film a wonderful choice for older tweens and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Nono. How does he show integrity in The Zigzag Kid? Why is it important for him to know the truth about his past and finally talk with his father?

  • How does Nono show curiosity?

  • How is mental illness addressed in the film? Do you think people with mental illness are treated differently now from how they were in the time period presented in the film (the 1960s and '70s)?

Movie details

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