The Secret Diary of an Exchange Student review – underwhelming

August 19, 2021
Bashirat Oladele 0
Film Reviews, Netflix


An underwhelming film!

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An underwhelming film!

This review of Netflix film The Secret Diary of an Exchange Student contains no spoilers. 

It’s not easy to abandon your dreams of traveling the world and this is something Barbara, one of the main characters, can relate to. Set in Brazil, The Secret Diary of an Exchange Student shares the story of Barbara (played by Larissa Manoela) who is desperate to explore the world by any avenue possible. From having the oddest jobs, selling magazines, being an au pair, and much more. However, this film didn’t meet my expectations at all. One thing I loved about Barbara is her ambition to meet her goals, no matter how drastic they might seem. After all, she just wanted to travel the world.

Being the ambitious woman she is, Barbara takes shifts at the airport Rio de Janeiro. As part of her shift, a magazine stall owner promised her a free trip if she completes the goal of selling out the magazines. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t reach this goal but was fortunate to meet different types of people in the airport, learn about their experiences and more about their destinations. Not only is Barbara is in awe at the prospects of seeing the world, her best friend Taila is also keen to leave Brazil. Additionally, Taila isn’t exactly the biggest fan of the United States and it’s not exactly surprising when you look at the geopolitics and history of the Americas. She also works at the airport with Barbara but works in the taxi department. 

Unexpectedly, Barbara meets Brad on the last day at the airport, an American flight attendant who is fluent in the Portuguese language. Lucky for Barbara, they both get along and she decides to go to the US. Unsurprisingly her visa gets denied but this still does not stop her! As determined as she is, Barbara applies for an au pair programme to go to the US and she brings Taila along with her. With that, both of the girls are excited to leave Brazil and explore the US. As a viewer, we follow Barbara and embody her excitement when she sees snow, seeing the yellow American school buses but this goes down hill when the movie follows the same-old, excruciatingly tired tropes of having boyfriend issues.

Whilst in the US, Barbara is supporting a single mother, Sheryll, who is a lawyer and in need of a nanny/au pair to look after and take care of her infant son. As a result of Barbara’s work, Sheryll covers all her expenses. Meanwhile, Taila is staying with another family…but they just wanted company, not an au pair. The Kenners are a shock for Taila as they are hunters and shoot animals for fun. Though they are based in New York, it seems as though both of the girls were anticipating flying to New York City and working as au pairs in the Big Apple, not upstate New York. 

I felt as though the film was incredibly underwhelming as it didn’t meet my expectations, hence the 1.5 star review. There was a lot going on and the childhood relationships weren’t explored in depth. The writing wasn’t horrible but I feel like it could have been crafted better. It’s tiring to see films of young women from less privileged countries travelling to the US and not adapting to the American way of life and instead are conflicted. Why does the US have to be the place for their dreams to flourish, considering Taila already harbors not-so-positive views of the country — for obvious reasons.

What did you think of Netflix film The Secret Diary of an Exchange Student? Comment below.

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