Frybread Face and Me Parent Guide
This story of a boy learning to understand his family's Navajo culture is sincere, but not always very exciting.
Parent Movie Review
Benny’s (Keir Tallman) summer plans lie in ruins. The eleven-year-old was planning a lazy school break at home in San Diego, with a Fleetwood Mac concert as the highlight. Now, his parents tell him he’s going to spend the summer on the Navajo Reservation, living with his grandmother (Sarah H. Natani) and assorted relatives. Disgruntled and rebellious, Benny’s put on the bus while his parents stay behind with their adult-sized problems.
Arriving at the home he barely remembers, Benny reunites with his grandmother, a dignified, resilient woman who refuses to learn English and speaks to him in Navajo, a language he does not understand. Also living there is Uncle Marvin (Martin Sensmeier), who runs the sheep farm and competes in rodeos. Free-spirited Aunt Lucy (Kahara Hodges) floats in and out, when she’s not couch-surfing with friends. And, finally, cousin Frybread Face (Charley Hogan) arrives and the summer finds its groove.
Frybread Face is, of course, a nickname: her real name is Dawn. The unflattering moniker was given because her face, like the staple food, is round and greasy – a cruel comparison to make for a tween girl. Fry, as she’s usually called, is plump, confident, eccentric, and determined to whip her city cousin into shape.
Fry soon introduces Benny to the Navajo concept of “hozho”. It loosely resembles the concept of “zen” – being at one with the world around you. Someone who is “in hozho” is in a state of peace, balance, beauty, and harmony.
Hozho may be a desirable state, but it doesn’t come naturally to Benny or his family. Benny doesn’t understand his tribe’s cultural traditions or the work he’s expected to do with the sheep. Desperate to return home, Benny plots his escape – and then an unexpected event takes place.
Frybread Face and Me is two things: a maturation tale and a story of cultural reconciliation. Over the course of the movie, Benny grows and matures, learning new skills, developing self-confidence, and finding pride in his culture. Although he doesn’t understand the words his grandmother speaks, he’s able to read her intent, and the two develop a relationship. Within his extended family, Benny learns about Navajo customs, takes ownership of his long hair, and begins to enjoy tribal rituals, especially his baby cousins’s first laugh ceremony.
I usually enjoy cultural dramas but I had a hard time getting enthused about this film. Perhaps it’s a reflection of my own cultural illiteracy. I don’t know much about the culture or history of the Navajo, so it’s very possible that I missed witty allusions or inside jokes in the script. I was intrigued by Benny’s wise grandmother, but I was often bored during the film. The acting isn’t terrific, so that’s a bit of a problem for me too.
On the bright side, the movie doesn’t come with high levels of negative content. There’s a split-second look at a bare-breasted woman in a Playboy magazine (blink and you’ll miss it), a little bit of cursing, and some plot-related violence. In exchange, Frybread Face and Me provides a story of family love, the strength that comes with cultural understanding, and a tentative prospect of family reconciliation. It might not arrive at hozho, but at least it’s hopeful.Directed by Billy Luther. Starring Keir Tallman, Charley Hogan, Sarah H Natani. Running time: 83 minutes. Theatrical release November 24, 2023. Updated November 24, 2023
Watch the trailer for Frybread Face and Me
Frybread Face and Me
Rating & Content Info
Why is Frybread Face and Me rated Not Rated? Frybread Face and Me is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: Rodeo rider falls off bull and is injured; some blood is seen. A boy hits a man in a wheelchair. A dead dog’s body is seen and removed from the highway.
Sexual Content: A child plays with toys and has them argue over the responsibility for a pregnancy. Kids have a discussion about lesbians. Someone is described as having “big balls”. A child has a brief glance at a Playboy magazine: there is a split-second view of a woman’s breasts.
Profanity: The script contains three scatological curses, three turns of deity, and three minor profanities. A crude term for women is used, as is a homophobic slur.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated November 24, 2023
Frybread Face and Me Parents' Guide
What changes for Benny over the summer? How does his view of his family and himself evolve?
What brings Fry and Benny together? How do the dynamics in their relationship evolve?
What kind of relationship do you see between Benny and his grandmother? Do you learn anything from her?
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