Cuties Parent Guide
The non-explicit, yet still disturbing, sexual content means this isn't a movie for young viewers - or for lots of adults.
Parent Movie Review
Cuties is nightmare fuel – the kind of examination of early adolescence that will keep parents of tweens awake all night as they ponder the daily reality of their children’s lives. The movie’s protagonist is Amy, played with quiet intensity by Fathia Youssouf. Along with her stoic mother (Maïmouna Gueye) and younger brothers, Amy has just moved into a new government housing project. The eleven-year-old is doing her chores and struggling to adapt to a new school when she overhears a cataclysmic piece of news: her father has returned to Senegal to take a second wife, who will be returning to France and moving in with them.
The tragedy of Amy’s life is that she is experiencing puberty while trapped between two diametrically opposed but equally damaging cultures. The harsh variant of Islam her family follows teaches her that women are fundamentally unclean. As she hears while attending prayers, “In hell there will be many more women than men. Where does evil dwell? In the bodies of uncovered women.” The message is further drilled in by an elderly “aunty” (Mbissine Thérèse Diop) who is determined to impose her rigid interpretation of their religion on both Amy and her mother. Amy’s suffering in the face of these cultural norms is invisible to Aunty and only recognized by her mother after her rage can no longer be ignored.
The teen culture to which Amy turns also fails to provide positive, healthy messages about sexuality or female bodies. Fascinated by the “cuties” (the school’s cool girls), Amy obsessively imitates their clothes and their dance moves, desperate to become part of the group. After she finds highly sexual dance videos on her stolen phone, she leads the group in mimicking the racy choreography. The girls know the moves are considered “sexy” but they really don’t understand the implications of their gyrations. The innocence that underlies their conversations about sex becomes apparent when the fast-talking Coumba (Esther Gohourou) finds a condom and unknowingly blows it up like a balloon.
The plot alone indicates that Cuties is not a movie for kids – and it’s not going to be a movie for most parents either. Watching Amy’s emotional needs go unmet is heartrending and seeing her willing participation in the objectification of her body is deeply unsettling. The sexual content in the movie, while never explicit, is disturbing. In one scene, the girls accuse a security guard of being a child molester and pervert just to make him let them go. In another scene, Amy posts a photo of her genitals (not seen on screen) to rebut suggestions that she’s a little girl. One of the movie’s worst moments is when Amy undoes her jeans and looks seductively at a man whose phone she has stolen. The message is clear: she will trade her body for the phone. Add in a dozen swear words (in the English subtitled version), several scenes of girls bullying each other, repeated thefts committed by Amy (with no consequences), and a potentially lethal physical assault and the content renders the film unsuitable for sensitive viewers.
Director Maïmouna Doucouré tries to end the movie on a hopeful note, but it isn’t believable. Amy’s “come to herself” moment feels unconvincing and she’s going to be called to account for a serious crime she has just committed. There’s no way she’s going to be able to dance her way out of the consequences that inevitably follow the choices she has made.Directed by Maimouna Doucoure. Starring Fathia Youssouf, Médina El Aidi-Azouni, Esther Gohourou. Running time: 96 minutes. Theatrical release September 9, 2020. Updated September 15, 2020
Watch the trailer for Cuties
Rating & Content Info
Why is Cuties rated TV-MA? Cuties is rated TV-MA by the MPAA
Violence: Siblings hit each other. A woman is heard slapping herself as she cries. There are repeated scenes of girls bullying each other, including throwing rocks, pushing, slapping, and calling names. A girl locks her brother in the bathroom. A main character deliberately drops a phone out the window. A main character bites a security guard. A main character stabs someone with a pen. A boy slaps a girl on the backside. A girl is pushed into the river. Young women have a fight and a girl’s pants are pulled down leaving her underwear visible.
Sexual Content: A woman is seen in her bra. There is mention of a polygamous marriage. Tweens discuss rape, AIDS, and explicit sexual activity. A video is briefly seen which shows women with exposed buttocks dancing provocatively: one touches another’s buttocks. Tween girl blows a condom like a balloon. Slang terms for breasts are used. Girls perform sexually provocative dance moves repeatedly. On one occasion adult men watch. The camera zooms in on their bottoms on another occasion. Menstrual blood seeps through a girl’s jeans. Girls call a man a child molester and pervert although he has done nothing. Girls are seen dancing down the street while wearing bras and underwear over their clothes. A girl behaves in a sexually provocative manner to persuade a man to let her keep his phone. A girl posts a picture of her genitals online: the photo is not seen on screen. A girl is called a slut and a whore.
Profanity: There are just over a dozen profanities in the movie, including three sexual expletives, as well as terms of deity, anatomical expressions, and scatological curse. A few minor curses are used as is a demeaning word for women.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated September 15, 2020
Cuties Parents' Guide
Amy finds highly sexualized content online, clearly demonstrating the need for parental oversight of kids’ media use. For more information about media safety for young people, check out these links.
Media Smarts: Internet Safety Tips by Age
KidsHealth: Internet Safety
Famisafe: 10 Best Internet Filters of 2020
Related home video titles:
For another harrowing but more hopeful look at the challenges of early adolescence, parents can check out Eighth Grade.
Mad Hot Ballroom looks at the impact of making dancing a mandatory part of the curriculum for fifth graders in New York City.