Beyond the Lights

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Beyond the Lights Movie Poster Image
Powerful romantic drama depicts the downside of celebrity.
  • PG-13
  • 2014
  • 116 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Exposes the negative impact of hyper-sexualizing young women in the performing arts, particularly pop music: Young singers shouldn't have to be super sexy to sell records; they should be allowed to develop as singers rather than objects of desire. Also argues that suicide attempts shouldn't be covered up; those with suicidal tendencies need help to work through their issues.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Noni stops acting like an overly produced, overly sexualized commodity and chooses to remain true to herself as a singer and artist; Kaz's father wants to help their community; Macy seems like a greedy show mom, but she does love Noni. Kaz wants to defend and protect Noni.

Violence

Noni tries to commit suicide by jumping off of a hotel balcony (Kaz saves her). Kid Culprit is rough and overly sexual with Noni during their award show performance and rips her outfit. Macy slaps Noni. Kaz punches Kid Culprit.

Sex

Noni and Kaz make love several times in different positions and locations; viewers see bare backs, shoulders, and sides. Noni and Kid Culprit discuss "hitting it" and kiss a couple times. Kid makes vulgar gestures during a live performance; he pushes Noni's head toward his genitals and her body onto a bed. Noni wears revealing outfits.

Language

Occasional "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "damn," and one "f--k." English slang like "bloody," "shite," "arse."

Consumerism

Mostly car makes and electronics: Escalade, Chevy, iPhone.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink (a couple of times straight from a bottle) in clubs and at parties. Noni says she had too much to drink as a reason for "falling" off the balcony.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Beyond the Lights is a poignant romantic drama with timely themes about the hyper-sexualization of young female performers, the artificiality and greed of the music industry, and the lack of compassion for celebrities who are treated like public commodities. The movie also explores the importance of dealing with mental illness, the sometimes toxic relationship between young celebrities and their controlling parents, and the power of finding your own voice -- literally and figuratively. There's occasional strong language ("s--t," "a--hole," and one "f--k") and a few steamy sex scenes that show bare backs and legs, plus a publicly violent encounter between the main character and her rap-star ex-boyfriend. But the movie offers parents an ideal opportunity to talk to teens about pop culture, sex, and the difference between someone who loves you for who you are and someone who's just a fair-weather hanger-on.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byB-KMastah December 11, 2014

A step above the typical "fame isn't always that great" tale.

I really hope that Gugu Mbatha-Raw becomes a full-on star. She was terrific in Belle, and now she cements her genuine talent in Beyond the Lights. I'm also... Continue reading
Adult Written byjadab1 April 8, 2016

Good Movie, Mixed Messages

Good movie mixed messages, sexually explicit for younger audience would not recommended for 12 and up probably mature 15 and up
Teen, 13 years old Written byrebo344 February 4, 2015

Excellent film with outstanding performances.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker were a dynamic duo and Beyond The Lights was none other than flawless. The music was great as well.
Teen, 16 years old Written by13Llewin March 1, 2018

inspiring

i think this movie perfectly shows that the truth always wins and so we should be who we are instead of letting others tell us what to do. if we do this we will... Continue reading

What's the story?

When BEYOND THE LIGHTS opens, English single mother Macy (Minnie Driver) desperately asks a black stylist to help her style her biracial daughter Noni's textured hair in time for a talent show. The talented, bespectacled tween blows the judges away with her poignant performance of Nina Simone's "Blackbird," but she's named runner up. Fast forward a decade, and grown-up Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) has transformed into an ultra sexy, Rihanna-Beyonce-Ciara-like singer about to drop her first album. Despite winning an award for her collaboration with boyfriend/rap star Kid Culprit, Noni jumps off her hotel balcony -- only to be saved by Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker), who's assigned to her security detail. Thanks to the paparazzi, Noni claims she'd had too much to drink, and Kaz is branded a hero, but he knows the truth, and the two can't stop thinking about each other. As Noni and Kaz -- who has political ambitions -- fall quickly in love, both must make critical decisions about their future.

Is it any good?

As romantic melodramas go, this one is rather substantive. Writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood wowed audiences in 2000 with her critically acclaimed debut, Love and Basketball, and then, eight years later, she earnestly adapted The Secret Life of Bees. Now she's back with another romantic drama about a young woman finding her voice -- except this time it's actually about a singer. It took Prince-Bythewood nearly a decade to get the film made because she wanted to cast Mbatha-Raw long before her star-turning role in Belle. The result is an earnest labor of love that captures the pitfalls of fame, the problems with hyper-sexualizing young performers, and the transformative power of finding someone who really sees you -- not just your persona.

Mbatha-Raw is pitch-perfect playing a rising star who wants not just fame but the possibility of artistic expression. Parker is also wonderful as a swoon-worthy man who's both sensitive and ultra-masculine. Their chemistry is impressively sizzling but also quite sweet as they encourage each other to do what's in their heart, not just what their parents and other advisers expect. The film boasts laudable performances, relevant issues, and a cautionary tale that's worth it for teens and parents to process. If young audiences realize why it meant more to Noni to sing "Blackbird" than a catchy, innuendo-filled tune, the movie has done its job.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Beyond the Lights depicts the music industry. Do you agree that young performers are forced to be extremely sexual? Why is their sexiness a bigger selling point than their talent? Is it just the music industry that does this, or other areas of media/pop culture as well?

  • Is Noni and Macy's relationship believable? Which reality shows depict "show moms" who seem to care just as much about their kids' careers as the kids themselves? Does Macy redeem herself by the end of the movie?

  • How are Noni's two romantic relationships portrayed? Which one is healthier, and why? Do you think the love scenes were handled appropriately for teen audiences? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

Movie details

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