Box art for Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

drama, foreign

From the director of The Joy Luck Club, and based on the best-selling novel, comes a timeless portrait of female friendship.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

ON for kids age 14
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
0 out of 5
Positive messages
2 out of 5
Positive role models
1 out of 5
2 out of 5
2 out of 5

Disappointing literary adaptation has some heavy themes.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book-based drama set in both present-day and 19th-century China explores complicated but sustaining friendships among women. In some ways, it's an uplifting tale that teens might find interesting, but the storytelling is uneven, and some themes/plot lines -- opium addiction, persecution, pervasive repression of women -- may be too intense for younger viewers. There's some drinking and period-accurate substance abuse; one scene of a married couple having sex shows a man atop a woman, with his naked back visible.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about how the movie depicts repressive practices like foot binding. How did it affect women in China? What repercussions did it have? What does the movie say about the treatment of women, both in the past and today?
  • What does the movie say about female friendships? How do they compare to romantic relationships?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

Top Critic Reviews

Rotten: In this lavish adaptation of Lisa See's novel, the complex chronologies of the parallel narratives are skillfully handled by director Wayne Wang, which makes his reliance on unbridled sentimentality all the more irritating.

- Andrea Gronvall, Chicago Reader, Friday, July 29, 2011

Rotten: You're advised to bring a hankie or two should you venture forth to see the tearjerker "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan."

- V.A. Musetto, New York Post, Friday, July 15, 2011

Audience Reviews

2 stars

the director's/script's addition of the modern day Snow Flower/Lily as the real main characters' progeny really was unnecessary and very distracting. Needless to say, the book was better. The movie sucked at translating differences in cultural values that say the Joy Luck Club did brilliantly. And speaking of Joy Luck Club, Russel Wong was in this movie. It seemed like they were trying too hard to make this into another Joy Luck Club. Lisa See is a very adept author, we don't need to add parts of Amy Tan to make her best selling book more viable as a movie!

- fb645492669, Monday, January 16, 2012

3 stars

Didn't enjoy the parallel storyline much. The book had no flip-flops between past and present. They should've kept to the book more, because I feel a lot of the significant details in the book were left out, basically changing the feel to something different and not nearly as historically interesting and spiritually deep as the book was. The movie version just didn't invoke the same emotion I felt in the book version, but I think because I'd already read the book, I understood the overall feel the filmmakers were attempting to convey. Therefore I wouldn't recommend this to someone who hasn't read the book.

- weltlichgesinnt, Sunday, November 20, 2011

4 stars

Only four people on Tuesday afternoon in Xi'an cinema wasn't a good sign for heavily advertised movie in China. I am glad that wasn't a sign of anything else than rainy day... This very philosophical Chinese movie is based on the 2005 novel by Lisa See and directed by the Hong Kong-born filmmaker Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club). Snow Flower and the Secret Fan boast a strong ensemble cast, including the Chinese actress Li Bingbing, South Korea's Jeon Ji-Hyun, and Hugh Jackman. The film was jointly produced by Wendi Murdoch, wife of Rupert Murdoch, and Florence Low Sloan. This multi levelled story of female friendship (or something a little bit more) takes us through the ages, beginning in 19th century China, where seven-year-old girls Snow Flower and Lily bind themselves together for eternity as laotong, or "old sames". Isolated by their families, the girls communicate by taking turns writing in a secret language, N Shu, between the folds of a white silk fan. In the modern story set in present-day Shanghai, Snow Flower and Lili's descendants, Nina and Sophia, struggle to maintain their close friendship in the face of demanding careers, complicated relationships, and a relentlessly evolving Shanghai. This movie is a real revelation exposing to the audience the nearly forgotten codes of conduct imposed upon women in imperial China, as well as abandoned traditions such as foot binding. Showing us and contrasting the pressures of life for women in ancient and modern China, as well as their commonalities, the film shows that while times are always changing, friendship can be taken as a historical constant. Well-made movie for real lovers of history and well written story with excellent camera work!

- panta2, Wednesday, July 6, 2011