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The Secret Diary of an Exchange Student

This coming-of-age movie discusses immigration issues in the United States through the eyes of two exchange students in Brazil.

The Secret Diary of an Exchange Student (2021)

3.5 / 5
3 / 5

The Secret Diary of an Exchange Student (2021) is a young adult movie that is about two best friends embarking on a life-changing adventure abroad as exchange students. Barbara and Talia, two girls in Rio, decide to leave their home city to have an adventurous life.

The movie’s language is Portuguese because the film is set in Brazil. All the characters’ lines are in Portuguese with English subtitles shown on screen. Many cast members are Brazilian; one noticeable actress is Larissa Manoela, who has starring roles in some Brazilian movies. She plays Barbara, a woman who works at Rio’s International Airport. After a long shift with little success, Barbara goes through her travel magazines as a way to escape her boring life.

Barbara is unhappy with her current job at the airport, along with her coworker Talia. She dreams of leaving Rio to explore the world. Barbara encourages Talia to apply to the exchange student program so they can get out of their boring lives. Talia agrees, but only if they can survive. The two main characters become exchange students, writing in their journals about their experiences in another country. They travel from Rio, Brazil, to the United States. When they reach the U.S., some of their lines are spoken English. Barbara and Talia go to separate houses for the duration of the exchange student program.

Barbara and Talia

Barbara’s voiceovers in The Secret Diary of an Exchange Student give viewers her thoughts and perspective on her stay in America. Her voiceovers fit the movie’s title exactly. She has to deal with taking care of Josh, the baby, and the strict house rules. Talia notices all the animals mounted on the walls are dead, something she isn’t used to.

The ski resort scene shows viewers the snowy mountains, something Barbara and Talia have never experienced since Rio, Brazil has no snow. The downhill slope of the snowy mountains has a figurative meaning: Barbara and Talia’s friendship is slowly going downhill, leaving the two falling out. The two have difficulty staying out of trouble; trouble arises when the two end their friendship.

The topic of The Secret Diary of an Exchange Student is the reality of the American Dream. While most immigrants and exchange students look forward to the American Dream, there is a dark side to the reality of America: all the glitter is not gold. Many characters reference the relationship between Brazil and the U.S. in many scenes.

Things get intense when strangers are brought into the host’s house and a fight happens outside. Kat (Maiara Walsh), is the criminal arrested. Barbara and Talia reconcile over a scary situation like this. The climax is the immigration court scene where Brad takes the full blame. There is a lot of discussion about illegal immigration across country borders. Immigration is a major issue in society that many immigrants are struggling with, especially when it comes to immigration into the U.S.

The Secret Diary of an Exchange Student talks about the serious topic of illegal immigration while having a strong representation of Brazilians.