Parents' Guide to

No Alternative

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Drugs, sex, profanity in dark coming-of-age story.

Movie NR 2018 97 minutes
No Alternative Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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Is It Any Good?

Our review:
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This movie is a mixed bag. When it's good, it's very good, but when it isn't, there's a disappointment that overwhelms what's clearly a brave and earnest project. The acting across the board is incredible, fearless, and at times gut-wrenching. The tableau of '90s grunge teens smoking and drinking at parties while affecting jaded attitudes is as perfect at capturing the time as Dazed and Confused was for capturing the '70s. The politics and shifting alliances inherent in the life of a basement band shows some obvious real-life experience with trying to get a band off the ground. The movie also makes a powerful statement on the stigmatization of mental illness, and the mom's later-life realizations of the quiet desperation in John Lennon's voice in "Help!" is an incredible moment, and like much of the movie, not easily forgotten.

But as No Alternative goes on, there are parts that seem so forced and so ham-fisted, it feels like you're being manipulated. While the movie and the story are obviously so personal and mean so much to the filmmaker, there are plot points that come off as being shoehorned in to make these broader points. For instance, there's a scene in which Bridget, a white suburban teenager who starts performing as Bri Da B, an African American hip-hop persona, is called out after her performance by an African American man for her use of the "N" word in her lyrics. The scene feels like it's put in there to anticipate justifiable reactions to her use of the word. This is one of a few examples that grow in frequency as the movie progresses in which the story arc is bent to fit the message. And the ending, as messy as it seems on the surface, comes off as too neat and tidy for all the terrible things that have happened, and in terms of the music, after so much that came off as accurate, it's disappointing to feel like you're left with an origin story of rap metal.

Movie Details

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