By Kat Halstead,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Illuminating music docu has strong language, mature themes.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
It's important to be yourself, even if others don't understand or approve. Standing up for what you believe in takes courage and integrity, though may make you unpopular and anger those who disagree. Just because someone appears strong doesn't mean they're unbreakable.
Positive Role Models
Sinéad O'Connor is talented and creative, and has much success during her career, but is also troubled by a traumatic childhood and ongoing psychological struggles. She is shown to be courageous in speaking her mind and fighting for the causes of those without a voice, even though her refusal to compromise or play by the rules makes her unpopular with many over the years.
Centers a woman who challenged gender stereotypes with her appearance and behavior, shaving her head to rebel against her record labels idea of femininity and speaking out about women's rights. Racism is touched upon, with the singer speaking out against it, though the majority of people in archive footage are White. Ireland and the music industry at the times are portrayed as patriarchal, and there are scenes of male interviewers being patronizing and focusing on her shaved head above her music, as well as the suggestion she was encouraged by people within the industry to terminate a pregnancy because it didn't fit with her album release.
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Violence & Scariness
Mention of child abuse, domestic abuse, and sexual abuse. References to rape and abortion. O'Connor's mother is said to have been physically and psychologically abusive, with O'Connor saying she was beaten up in childhood, and forced to live in the garden for days at a time. Death of her mother is mentioned. News footage involving protests sees pushing and kicking within. In archive footage, a photo of the Pope is ripped up during a live TV performance.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Fleeting seductive dance on stage.
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Language includes "bloody," "f---ing," "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "hell," "ass," and "p---y." "Jesus Christ" used as an exclamation.
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Products & Purchases
The documentary is about a musical artist, so it may push viewers toward buying their work. But there is no explicit marketing. Other artists mentioned include Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, and John Lennon.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Archive footage shows people smoking cigarettes. Beer can held in concert. Mention of smoking a "spliff," slang for a cannabis joint.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Nothing Compares is a fascinating documentary about Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor that tackles some tough topics including abuse. It uses mostly archive footage along with voiceover interviews with the star and others to tell the story of her childhood and rise to fame up until her political statements ostracized her from the industry. Mature themes are discussed, including child abuse, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, rape, abortion, Catholicism, sin and shame, and the death of parents. There is strong language including "f--k" and "s--t," and characters smoke cigarettes in archive footage. There is also passing reference to drugs. O'Connor shows courage and integrity in her actions, but is targeted strongly by the media and others for not conforming. Fans of the star will enjoy rare archive footage, and the documentary may also appeal to those interested in gender representation and equality, and figures who blazed the way ahead of their time.
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What's the Story?
In NOTHING COMPARES, Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor turns to music to deal with an abusive childhood, her now iconic voice quickly catapulting her into the limelight. She uses her platform to challenge expectations and as a stage for political activism, which ultimately leads to her exile from the industry that once embraced her.
Is It Any Good?
Reframed in the current climate, it's interesting to see how O'Connor's actions may have been celebrated rather than vilified had she been in the spotlight 30/40 years later. Nothing Compares positions the star as ahead of her time, and between her refusal to conform to gender norms and her using her fame for political activism -- particularly on subjects such as abortion rights, women's equality, racism, and child abuse within the church -- it becomes clear how she paved the way for a new generation of female, and possibly non-binary, artists to raise their voices. Archive footage is fascinating, particularly the rarely seen moment at a Bob Dylan anniversary concert, where she is booed off-stage, that Saturday Night Live performance that as good as ended her career, and endless interviews with male presenters who struggle to move the conversation past her "shocking" shaved head. It paints a strong picture of what she was up against the minute she refused to play nice, and how the career of a woman who initially went into music because she "just wanted to scream" exploded and then went silent because the world wasn't prepared for the truth of who she was and what she had to say.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the theme of gender in Nothing Compares. What did the documentary say about gender stereotypes and women's rights, and how these tie in to the political and social norms of the time?
Sinéad O'Connor displays a number of character strengths, including courage and integrity. Why are these important? Can you think of times in your life when you've shown these traits?
Catholicism has a strong presence in the film. How was it portrayed? What aspects of the religion were seen by the star as challenging? Do you think the portrayal was fair?
Talk about the use of strong language in the documentary. Did it seem necessary or excessive? What did it contribute to the film?
- In theaters: September 23, 2022
- On DVD or streaming: September 30, 2022
- Cast: Sinéad O'Connor, Aifric O'Donnell, Gay Byrne
- Director: Kathryn Ferguson
- Studio: Showtime Networks
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Activism, Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Courage, Integrity
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: March 30, 2023
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