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.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.