A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
No real positive messages.
Positive Role Models
No real positive role models.
Violence & Scariness
One of the characters finds the gun in his father's closet, takes it out, and puts it to his mouth; in the next scene, his sister and mother find him dead on the parents' bed; some blood. One of the characters mentions his attempted suicide; brief shot of the cuts on and around his wrists. A teen girl beats up another teen girl in a classroom.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teens shown on the verge of having sex -- oral sex in a car, and sex in a park. One of the lead characters, who has sex with a girl who he thought had been, like him, a virgin, discovers he has genital warts. Teen boys repeatedly ask their friend if he had sex with his date. A teen girl tells the sister of the boy she's seeing that they had sex, and "I've had better."
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Frequent profanity. "F--k" frequently used. "C--t" used by a police officer. One of the lead characters, a suburban white teenager, takes on the persona of an African American and performs hip-hop and often uses the "N" word. "S--t," "a--hole," "piss," "ass." Teens use the word "retard." A girl is called a "f---king whore." "Douchebag."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens shown sneaking out of their houses to binge drink and smoke marijuana. Teens often shown drinking. One of the lead characters has been prescribed a plethora of mood-altering drugs and later tries to sell them at an AA meeting. Same character shown taking these pills by washing them down with vodka taken from her parents' liquor cabinet.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that No Alternative is a 2018 coming-of-age drama in which a teen boy in the mid-90s becomes obsessed with making his band successful in the midst of personal and family issues. A character commits suicide by putting a gun to his mouth -- family members find him. Another character talks of his attempted suicide, and shows the scars on his wrists. Another character is unflinchingly shown struggling with mental health issues, including moments of screaming, crying, and calling her mother a "f--king bitch." This same character is shown trying to sell the prescription medication she takes to people in an AA meeting. A teen discovers that he has genital warts after sleeping with his 15-year-old girlfriend. Teens are frequently shown drinking, smoking cigarettes, and smoking marijuana. Constant profanity, including a white character using the "N" word while rapping (and a debate with an African American man who calls her out on it), "f--k," "motherf---er," and "c--t." A teen girl attacks another girl in a classroom when the girl tells her that she had sex with her brother and adds, "I've had better." Overall, the movie has some very dark turns, and fearlessly addresses such themes as suicide, mental health, and teen sex. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.