Liza, Liza Skies Are Grey

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Liza, Liza Skies Are Grey Movie Poster Image
Tender coming-of-age tale has language, drugs, and sex.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 86 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

First love is real and profoundly affecting.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Brett is a sweet, kind, thoughtful 16-year-old who seems to have been abandoned by his well-to-do family.

Violence

Someone's brother was killed in Vietnam War. Menacing group of men pick a fight with Brett on deserted beach. Brett defends himself. Later, they try to run Brett and Liza off the road, attack Brett physically and menace Liza until another driver stops and scares them away. A motel clerk barges into a room carrying whisky, suggesting that he intends to force himself on a young couple, possibly sexually. Teens are arrested as runaways. A man brings his girlfriend's 15-year-old daughter to his home, strips, tries to have sex with her. The girl doesn't tell her mother, assuming her mother won't believe her.

Sex

Two teens, both virgins, decide they would like to be each other's firsts. No nudity is seen, but in a moonlit kissing scene, they seem to have sex. They later talk about how good it was. Multiple people sit on couches and the floor, kissing and fondling each other, presumably under influence of unnamed drugs. A woman suggests a 16-year-old boy take her home, clearly for sex. Kids look at Playboy centerfolds in a store. A mother suggests her 15-year-old daughter have an affair. A music student asks her teacher if she's gone to bed with a lot of men. A woman mocks a man who thinks he's a good lover because he can climax several times per night. She suggests he's a premature ejaculator.

Language

"F--k," "s--t," "bitch," "bastard," "hell," and "crap."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens and adults drink alcohol. A teenager drinks so much she vomits, off-screen. Unidentified white pills are offered at a dinner. Adults smoke cigarettes. A cigarette ad touting "women's" cigarettes plays on TV.  Multiple people sit on couches and the floor, kissing and fondling each other, presumably under influence of unnamed drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Liza, Liza, Skies Are Grey is a coming-of-age tale in which a privileged teen couple take a trip up the California coast without telling the grown-ups in their lives. Their goal is to have the privacy to make love for the first time, but hesitations and adventures get in their way until the time is right. The emphasis is on love over sex, which is handled sensitively, without nudity or graphic depictions. The pair face danger as they sleep on beaches and in creepy motels. Drug and alcohol use, in some cases by teens, is shown. A violent gang tries to attack the kids. A man brings his girlfriend's 15-year-old daughter to his home, strips, and tries to have sex with her. The girl doesn't tell her mother, assuming her mother won't believe her. A music student asks her teacher if she's gone to bed with a lot of men. A woman mocks a man who thinks he's a good lover because he can climax several times per night. She suggests he's a premature ejaculator. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bastard," and "bitch."  

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What's the story?

It's 1966, and 15-year-old Liza (Mikey Madison) and 16-year-old Brett (Sean H. Scully) are two sensitive teenagers worrying about the state of the world. His older brother was killed in the Vietnam War, so what will Brett do if he's drafted? And with kids practicing Take Cover drills in school, how does a teenager live day to day knowing the hydrogen bomb could wipe everyone off the planet in an instant? Such questions provide the backdrop to LIZA, LIZA, SKIES ARE GREY. Both teens have troubled families. The two forge a quick bond, perhaps seeking the security and affection absent in their lives. They decide to lose their virginity to each other and plan a motorcycle trip from Los Angeles up the coast to Big Sur, hoping for the nerve and privacy to consummate their relationship. Adventures along the way open their eyes to the unpredictable dangers of the world. In the process, Brett displays decency, responsibility, and protectiveness, and Liza allows herself to understand what it means to be loved. 

Is it any good?

There's an overwhelming sweetness and tenderness here that will appeal as much to teens experiencing the usual growing pains as to adults for whom coming-of-age is a distant memory. Mikey Madison and Sean H. Scully in the leads are sympathetic actors delivering earnest performances. What the film does well is re-create the agony and joy of inching toward maturity.

Note that Liza, Liza, Skies Are Grey omits any lead-up to the road trip, leaving the audience to wonder throughout if frantic parents are back home calling the police and launching search parties. That tension, underlying every moment of the road trip, remains unresolved until late in the action. Still, there's a lot to enjoy in this tale that celebrates the beauty of young love. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how events of the moment can affect growing up. What are some late 1960s developments that provide the backdrop for Liza, Liza, Skies Are Grey? How do they influence decisions made by the characters? What current events do you think are affecting growing up today?

  • Both Liza and Brett come from difficult but economically privileged backgrounds. How did their respective family situations make their bond stronger? 

  • Does this story feel as if it was set in the past? Do you think the challenges teens must overcome as they mature have or haven't changed since the 1960s?

Movie details

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