A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Song to Song is a drama from acclaimed filmmaker Terrence Malick. His films are generally more poetic and existential than they are traditional stories, so some viewers may well lose patience. It's also quite mature, with particularly strong sexual content -- including nudity (breasts, most of a woman's body), simulated sex, a threesome, flirting and kissing (same-sex and opposite-sex), and more. Characters frequently drink and smoke in a social context and are playfully drunk in one sequence. A woman takes a psychedelic mushroom, and the mushroom dealer is briefly shown. There's minor violence at a rock concert (in the mosh pit), plus other slightly upsetting images. One scene with strong language includes a few uses of "f--k." Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman, Michael Fassbender, and other well-known actors co-star.
What's the story?
In SONG TO SONG, struggling musician BV (Ryan Gosling) tries to find success in the Austin music scene. He meets mogul Cook (Michael Fassbender), who has another would-be songstress, Faye (Rooney Mara), already in his clutches. Faye falls for BV, while Cook eventually becomes interested in an attractive waitress, Rhonda (Natalie Portman), and sweeps her away into a world of glamor and music. But BV gets jealous and breaks up with Faye; both drift into the arms of other lovers, while their music careers sputter. Can they ever find happiness again?
Is it any good?
Terrence Malick fans will be pleased, and detractors will be annoyed; this drama is filled with Malick's usual trademarks: beautiful wanderings, poetic thoughts, an existential portrait of longing. Song to Song is more an experimental movie than a plot-driven one, and -- like other Malick movies (especially The New World, The Tree of Life, and To the Wonder) -- the images capture a primal way of being. Humans interact with their surroundings, touching things, seeing things. Gosling seems particularly comfortable with this premise and his role; he's more playful than many other recent Malick leading men. And the cinematography by the great Emmanuel Lubezki beautifully captures natural light and gorgeous shapes and textures.
The soundtrack, meanwhile, is a tapestry of expressed thoughts and ideas, sometimes drifting away, sometimes alighting on something meaningful. So it's a clash of being and thinking, as well as a beautiful dance between them. But most modern viewers aren't trained to watch things like this; it's like a European art house movie from another era, comparable to late Antonioni, Welles, or Bresson but perhaps baffling and boring to newcomers. Malick is a giant who will one day find his place, but for now, only the initiated -- or the sublimely curious -- need apply.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Song to Song depicts sex. Do the sex scenes depict casual sex or loving sex? How are they different? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
What do the characters learn here? Do they have a "character arc"? Is it OK if they don't?
What does "existential" mean? How does an existential movie compare to one with a concrete beginning, middle, and end?
How does Song to Song compare to Terrence Malick's other movies? What do you think makes people hold his work in such esteem?
- In theaters: March 17, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: July 4, 2017
- Cast: Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender
- Director: Terrence Malick
- Studio: Broad Green Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 129 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some sexuality, nudity, drug use and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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