Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming Movie Poster Image
Canadian girl travels to Iran in animated dramedy.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 85 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Mild messages about believing in yourself and being brave enough to try new things and go for what you really want. The underlying message has to do with the unshakable quality of a parent's love, but it's somewhat muddied.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character boldly pursues her love of poetry and the desire to become a poet herself, even traveling to a faraway land to do so (she's invited to a poetry festival). The Iranian people are demythologized for Western audiences; although the regime's oppressive actions are integral to the plot, the people themselves are made human and portrayed as having the same concerns as other people -- family first, among them. Several prominent female characters, including a loving grandmother, a wise poet, and a doctor. 

Violence & Scariness

A girl loses her mother to death when the girl is very young and her father to (supposed) abandonment around that same time.

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming is an animated drama about a Canadian girl who travels to Iran. Like many kids' movies, it deals with parental loss: The girl's mother dies when the girl is very young; she also loses her father to (supposed) abandonment around the same time. These losses aren't really confronted until the film's second half, and even then, despite tears, it doesn't have serious emotional impact. Kids raised in America might worry about a teen girl going alone to Iran, but the film portrays Iranians as real, sympathetic people. The regime's oppressive actions are a factor, but the Iranians themselves are presented as humans who have the same concerns as anyone else. 

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What's the story?

In WINDOW HORSES: THE POETIC PERSIAN EPIPHANY OF ROSIE MING, Canadian teen Rosie (voiced by Sandra Oh) self-publishes her first book of poetry and finds herself invited to a poetry festival in Iran, where she happens to have family roots, albeit estranged ones. Bumbling good-heartedly through local customs and a bit overwhelmed by the more seasoned artists around her, Rosie unexpectedly finds pieces of her unexplored family mystery coming together. With the help of a wise local poet (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and others, she may discover truths about herself that deepen her own work.

Is it any good?

It has flashes of uniqueness and even wonder, but this animated dramedy can't sustain them over the rather flimsy framework of its self-discovery plot. Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming starts wonderfully, introducing us to an intelligent, artistically inclined young girl who wants to be a poet. The film captures Rosie's mix of enthusiasm and reserve but also props her up with traits that seem more calculated than organic (Exhibit A: Her unexplored, obsessive love of France). The movie's visual world is composed of several styles of animation to convey different artistic perspectives and points of view; the base style is made of simple line drawings, especially those depicting Rosie as a stick figure (the production company is "Stickgirl"). The mix is charming and occasionally quite beautiful. When she travels to Iran, the new sights, sounds, and artistic ideas are conveyed in a lovely fashion. But even that basic plot idea -- a new poet of no renown, with no following whatsoever, gets invited to an international festival -- makes you wonder from the start what's going on. 

The film requires significant suspension of disbelief as convenient meetings keep happening. Yet the structure also requires Rosie to remain blithe about what should be the single most emotional, important journey of her life, considering what she knows and what we are to learn. Her poetry, too, is the kind of precocious navel gazing that makes her invitation feel all the more suspicious. Sure, she's being given somewhere to go, room to grow by the filmmakers, but it might help to start her at a more plausible point. And even those flashes of wonder are dulled by a middle section that feels more instructional than dramatic. The whole truth of Rosie's actual circumstance terribly undermines earlier warm scenes with her grandmother (Nancy Kwan) and grandfather (Eddie Ko), but the film almost completely ducks the awful emotional blowback that must occur. You can't help wishing that the characters she encounters were as interesting as Rosie herself was in the film's opening minutes -- including Aghdashloo as a wise poet; Canadian veteran Don McKellar as a haughty young German poet you wish was funnier; Elliot Page in a cameo as the best friend; others who exist to provide exposition. Even Rosie's personality seems to flatten out as the plot takes over. Despite some moments of beauty along Rosie's journey of self-discovery, Window Horses fails to take root.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Iran is typically portrayed in the media. What did you expect when you found out Rosie was going to go there alone? Did Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming surprise you in what it showed you about that country and its people? 

  • It turns out Rosie has been lied to for a long time about something very important. What do you think about that circumstance? Do you think it's all right, or is it a terrible betrayal? Why?

  • What did you think of the poetry in the film? Did any of it speak to you? 

Movie details

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