Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Coda Movie Poster Image
Dull drama about pianist has mature themes, language.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 96 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Promotes moving forward after grief, making the most of artistic gifts, finding strength in company of others.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Gifted pianist struggles with insecurity, recovers confidence, belief in himself; he's honest, thoughtful, compassionate. Ethnic diversity.


One use each of: "f--k off," "crap," "s--t," "fecal matter."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Moderate alcohol use in social situations and smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Coda is an indie drama about a famously talented musician suffering from self-doubt after a long illustrious career, and a younger female journalist who wants to write his story. The movie builds their relationship as it follows the pianist through both personal and career crises. There's moderate alcohol use in social situations, and smoking. Other than a very few instances of profanity ("f--k off," "s--t"), there's nothing objectionable for teens. It deals with mature themes, however, and the subject matter may not be of interest to most.  

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What's the story?

CODA opens as internationally celebrated pianist Henry Cole (Patrick Stewart) performs in New York City for the first time after a long hiatus. It's a sold-out concert, and though Henry makes it to the end, it's almost more than he can handle. He's shaken, suffering from stage fright and a crushing loss of faith in himself. Though his agent, Paul (Giancarlo Esposito), tries to bolster Henry's fragile ego, the artist isn't sure he can continue his upcoming tour. When he's introduced to New Yorker writer Helen Morrison (Katie Holmes), he turns down her appeal for a profile in the respected magazine. But Helen doesn't give up easily. She gracefully but forcefully refuses to take no for an answer, and a tentative relationship begins. 

Is it any good?

This tender study of an intense musical genius, whose career and inner life are resurrected by an idealistic young writer, is slow going and lacks energy in spite of solid performances. What was probably conceived of as a "leisurely" pace is, instead, slow, listless, and repetitive. It doesn't help that the filmmakers have devoted a great number of scenes to Henry alone, remembering, pondering, reflecting, and grieving. In addition, time and place are adrift. Scenes in Switzerland -- both present and past -- though beautifully shot, are intercut with scenes in New York, Boston, London -- present, past, and future. It's often difficult to identify the where and the when. Profound connections and bonds are hard to come by, and though Coda tries to share a lovely example of such a relationship, it's simply too thin and spiritless.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the term "character-driven film." How does Coda fit that description? What moves the story forward: A series of events? Or does it rely on personal emotions and/or behavior? Categorize some of your other film favorites. Are they action driven, plot driven, or character driven? Which do you usually like best, and why?

  • How does Coda's musical score contribute to the tone and storytelling? Why do you think the filmmakers opted for a solo piano throughout?

  • Which of Helen's character strengths helped Henry through his crisis? Though he was older, more accomplished, and more experienced, in what ways did she become his mentor?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love music

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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