A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Encourages honesty (to others and to yourself), self-reflection, perseverance. Also demonstrates how transformative (in both a positive and negative way) modern technology and social media are, and how no one is immune to technology's influence.
Positive Role Models
It seems Peyangki has to rebel against his upbringing in order to truly find his path, even if it isn't what he (or viewers) expect. Ugyen seems self-centered and concerned more with her own needs than with Peyangki's crisis.
Violence & Scariness
Pretend violence as the young monks use their toy guns to "shoot" at one another (Peyangki is later reprimanded for buying the toys and encouraging the behavior). Peyangki's mother says if he stays a monk, he'll one day be able to perform the rites at her cremation ritual.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief discussions of beauty/attractiveness and how Peyangki believes he's in love with Ugyen. She sings in front of men who later flirt with and try to touch her and her fellow hostesses outside the karaoke club.
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Subtitled inclusion of "damn," but otherwise reprimands like "rude," "not nice," "you're not a boy anymore," etc.
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Products & Purchases
Discussion of the WeChat app, which allows the monks to communicate with outsiders -- in Peyangki's case, Ugyen.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Peyangki and a friend pick mushrooms to make and sell medicinal mushroom tea, which acts like a drug of some sort. Some adults smoke cigarettes and drink at karaoke clubs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sing Me a Song is director Thomas Balmès' follow-up to 2013's Happiness. It continues the story of Peyangki, a young Buddhist monk in Bhutan who's now 18 (and not nearly as committed to his religious studies as he was as a child). In the first documentary, Peyangki's rural village was on the cusp of receiving electricity, phone, and internet service; a decade later, in Sing Me a Song, everyone -- even the boys at the monastery -- are avid smartphone and screen-time users. Peyangki is even in a text-based relationship with Ugyen, a city girl who's keeping some big secrets. There's not much mature content here, although Ugyen works as a hostess at a karaoke bar, where a couple of men (who look intoxicated) flirt and try to touch/hug her. Peyangki also picks and sells mushrooms to a man who turns them into a medicinal tea. There's no violence, but the young monks do play with toy guns and are later reprimanded for it. Peyangki is also shown crying and upset. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Balmès chronicles Peyangki's youth and relative innocence in order to thoughtfully explore universal themes about coming of age, the influence of technology, and first love. It's brilliant of the director to begin with footage from Happiness, not only to orient those who are unfamiliar with the first documentary but also to remind everyone of how quiet the village used to be (at the time, Peyangki spent his free time running around, singing, and making himself a flower crown). Fast-forward a decade, and the monastery and other buildings are still there, but everyone is glued to their phones. It would be simplistic to call the movie a cautionary tale, because Balmès doesn't judge Peyangki for his actions; he just shows how incongruous the current behavior is from his past and the path set before him. Some of the film's most revelatory scenes aren't between Peyangki and Ugyen (this isn't really a love story, although romance is certainly a major element) but between Peyangki and a younger monk in his group at the monastery.
The moments between Peyangki and his younger monk friends are poignant and brutally honest. The older monks gently lecture Peyangki to no avail, but when a younger peer asks him to reconsider leaving the monastery, it's remarkably effective. The cinematography of the monastery's mountainside setting is gorgeous, highlighting the unique beauty of a place nearly lost in time. When the action switches to Bhutan's capital city, Thimphu, the shots are quicker, the sounds louder, and the setting crowded. Peyangki arrives in the big city to see whether he has a future with Ugyen, and he quickly realizes that life, love, and the future aren't what he imagined. This is a contemplative film with plenty of worthy themes to discuss, and it cements Balmès as one of the most interesting and globally minded documentarians working today.
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.