Blackbird

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Blackbird Movie Poster Image
Earnest but awkward coming-out story has edgy content.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 99 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Emphasizes tolerance; also shows sympathy toward characters who've suffered losses.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character might have been a role model for teens in similar situations, but his decisions and behavior aren't always admirable.

Violence

A teen girl is missing. Arguing, slapping, some references to teen suicide/death. Hallucination of a bloody handprint.

Sex

Several sexy dream sequences with kissing and grinding. References to "nocturnal emissions." Main character scoops semen from sheets with his finger. Several implied sex scenes. Characters think and talk about sex constantly. A shot of a "meet hot guys" website. Losing their virginity is important to the characters.

Language

Strong language in a few scenes: "f--k," "motherf----r," "c--ksucking," "s--t," "ass," "suck," "jerk off," "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen shown smoking a strange-looking brown cigarette (it may be pot).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Blackbird is a coming-of-age drama about a gay, black, Christian teen in Mississippi. Plot elements/themes include a missing teen, arguing, slapping, virginity loss, and references to abortion and suicide. Teens think and talk about sex frequently. The main character has erotic dreams about kissing and having sex with boys; he experiences "nocturnal emissions" (a shot of semen is shown). He also kisses a boy while awake. Language is very strong, though it's used in just a few scenes; viewers will hear "f--k," "s--t," and "c--k" in various permutations. There's also a brief, possible drug appearance, when a teen smokes a brown cigarette that could be pot. The movie is awkward but earnest, and it might be helpful to older teens in similar situations.

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What's the story?

Seventeen-year-old Randy Rousseau (Julian Walker) is a Christian who sings in his church choir but can't stop having sexy dreams about boys. His friends decide to put on a gay, musical Romeo & Juliet for the school play, with Randy as Romeo, and his friends start to catch on as he sings longingly to his male co-star. Things get more complicated when Randy auditions for a student film that requires him to play a gay character; his gay, white co-star falls in love with him and starts flirting. Meanwhile, Randy's mother (Mo'Nique) has gone nearly mad with grief over her missing daughter, Randy's sister. Randy keeps praying for guidance, but what will happen when his mother discovers his true passions?

Is it any good?

Blackbird is as far from truth as it can possibly be; it's more like an after-school special. One of the characters in BLACKBIRD talks to Randy about wanting to make movies about truth like John Cassavetes did; Randy is even seen reading a book about Cassavetes. Unfortunately, director/co-writer Patrik-Ian Polk shows no familiarity with that legendary director's work.

The drama here is supremely awkward, forced, and amateurish, from the first moments of badly lip-synced singing to the final moments of unearned, coincidental triumph. Characters never seem to connect and can never get beyond the feeling that they're merely reading dialogue at each other. Not even an Oscar-winner like Mo'Nique or a powerful actor like Isaiah Washington can rise above their pedestrian moments. Still, the movie is very earnest and might have been helpful for young, struggling teens like Randy -- if not for the fact that it has so much strong language and drug- and sex-related content.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Blackbird's depiction of teen sex. How much sex is shown, and how much is implied? Do you think all of it was necessary for the story?

  • Why do you think it's so important for the teen characters that they lose their virginity? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • How is the gay character's coming out handled? How do his friends react? How do his parents react? His pastor? What role do his race and faith play in the experience?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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