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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

Sold movie review: the life of a child sex slave

Sold green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Brutal yet sensitively rendered, putting a human face, if a fictional one, on an issue that rarely gets one. Almost Dickens for the 21st century.
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m desperate for movies about girls and women
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

A movie based on a young-adult novel about child sex trafficking? Oh dear. But Sold is… Well, it’s not exactly a newsflash that there are children in the world who are sex slaves, nor that there are men in the world who will pay to rape children. Sold is hardly entertaining in the way that we generally mean when we talk about movies. Perhaps the best word to describe this brutal yet sensitively rendered film is enlightening, for putting a human face, if a fictional one, on an issue that rarely gets one. This tale of 13-year-old Lakshmi (newcomer Niyar Saikia) — trafficked from a remote Nepalese mountain village to a brothel in Calcutta run by the cruel Mumtaz (Sushmita Mukherjee) — is almost Dickens for the 21st century, shining an intimate, personal light on a commonplace yet hidden crime and tragedy, and with the unequivocal intent of getting you angry about it. (Which you will. The film’s official site includes info on how to take action, if it makes you angry enough that you want to do something about it.)

Author Patricia McCormick’s 2006 award-winning book is structured like a diary; this is a more straightforward narrative, almost all from Lakshmi’s perspective, and she is so sheltered and naive that she is astonished by channels changing on a television, a device she has never seen before. She has no idea what her new “job” is going to entail, and though first-time feature director Jeffrey D. Brown does not explicitly depict what she endures, there is no question what she is subjected to, and it is often difficult to sit through. Yet this is not a relentlessly grim film, either: there are brief moments of happiness for Lakshmi among the girls and women in the brothel who become her new friends, and she is a clever girl with an indomitable spirit who does not intend to remain prisoner, as she is, in this place.

The film is in the English language, which is a bit odd at first, because this is not a language that Lakshmi would speak, but Sold is intended for as wide an audience as possible, including teens, and subtitles would add an unnecessary distance between a Western viewer and Lakshmi. That hoped-for wide audience also accounts for the presence of two familiar faces, in brief roles: Gillian Anderson (Robot Overlords, Continuum) as a photographer documenting the sex slaves, and David Arquette (Entourage, Scream 4) as an aid worker trying to rescue them. But they are not clichéd white saviors; they’d like to be, but this isn’t their story. It’s all Lakshmi’s, and you will not soon forget it.


green light 4 stars

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Sold (2016) | directed by Jeffrey D. Brown
US/Can release: Apr 01 2016

MPAA: rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material involving the trafficking of children

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • AlanHK

    “Gillian Anderson (Robot Overlords, Continuum)” … two films I’ve never heard of. How about “Gillian Anderson (The X-Files)”. She was also pretty good in Hannibal recently.

  • RogerBW

    It’s automated based on recent releases.

  • Danielm80

    Odd. Most sites use a formula based on films AlanHK has heard of.

    Is it actually automated? I thought the research was done by MaryAnn (based on her own tags).

  • AlanHK

    So, citing “Robot Overlords” would inform an average reader who Gillian Anderson was? I’m such a Philistine for thinking of that populist trash “The X-Files” instead of that epic.

  • Danielm80

    Blame Gillian Anderson. She’s so talented that everyone wants to work with her, including people who make obscure films about robot overlords. And because MaryAnn follows standard journalistic convention, she lists Anderson’s most recent projects, rather than her most popular. In a month or so, Gillian Anderson will have filmed several more movies and TV shows, and MaryAnn can list those instead.

  • It’s not automated. I wish it was.

  • And yet you could just click right on the conveniently provided links to learn more!

  • It’s not automated. That would be awesome.

  • It’s not about “inform[ing] an average reader who Gillian Anderson [is].” It’s about linking to her most recent work that I have reviewed. (It’s also about providing internal linking at this site, which is good for SEO.) This isn’t Google or the IMDb.

    I’m such a Philistine

    Oh, knock it off.

  • AlanHK

    I get pissed on by your other commenters for making a simple observation, but you think it’s fine. Feels like a Donald Trump rally here.
    See you never again.

  • RogerBW

    Oh, fair enough.

    Maybe I should try to write something to do that.

  • Bluejay

    Feels like a Donald Trump rally here.

    Really? Did anyone here insult you for your sexuality, skin color, country of origin, or disability, or otherwise imply you’re a lesser American or lesser human being? If not, then it’s not a Donald Trump rally.

    All you got was a little bit of standard Internet sarcasm from ONE commenter. (You dished out some sarcasm yourself with your “Philistine/populist trash” remark.) Get over yourself.

  • But it wasn’t a “simple observation.”

    Feels like a Donald Trump rally here.

    Huh?

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