A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Songbird is an ensemble drama/thriller about a pandemic that was made during the 2020 COVID-19 quarantine. In the film, a militaristic government response has created a dystopian Los Angeles where people are ordered to stay indoors or face dire consequences. The central story involves a romance between immune courier Nico (KJ Apa) and Latinx artist Sara (Sofia Carson). Another character (Alexandria Daddario) is an aspiring singer who's trying to put an end to a #MeToo-type sexual situation; as part of her storyline, she wears skimpy lingerie that exposes her rear. Nico is also shown showering, though no sensitive body parts are actually exposed. Everyone is in peril: Expect guns, stabbings, strangling, shootings, exposure to the deadly virus. An aspirational character drinks beer, and unlikable characters smoke cigarettes. Characters also swear, mostly "s--t."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
SONGBIRD takes place in 2024, with a deadly pandemic ravaging the United States. In an attempt to control the airborne COVID virus, the government has instituted harsh lockdowns and curfews and put the Department of Sanitation in charge of moving all the sick to a quarantine zone. When health agents start removing occupants in his girlfriend Sara's (Sofia Carson) virus-ridden apartment building, courier Nico (KJ Apa) -- able to roam freely as one of the "Immunies" -- becomes desperate to get her out. As Nico tries to make an escape for them, we meet the others connected to his plan: a wealthy married couple (Bradley Whitford, Demi Moore) whose daughter has an autoimmune disease, a small-business owner (Craig Robinson), an aspiring singer (Alexandria Daddario), and a disabled veteran (Paul Walter Hauser).
Is it any good?
Technically, this qualifies as a "thrill ride" -- as in, it has unpleasant ups and downs, there's jerky camera work that leaves you queasy, and it goes nowhere in a hurry. Certainly, recognition is due for managing to make a movie while respecting quarantine restrictions: This is guerilla filmmaking with an exclamation mark. Shot on iPhones and laptops, it truly is a feat. But just like the quarantine-staple Zoom meeting, things sometimes get lost in the static. Songbird takes leaps in logic that are impossible to get past. The reliance on tight, handheld camera work is reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project. And it's all melodrama, all the time: The musical score gets a 5 out of 5 violins.
Most of the acting is solid. But the disjointed filming seems to have translated into performances that don't quite fit together. Where it's most noticeable is with Peter Stormare, an actor who's known for playing some pretty over-the-top bad guys. As the sleazy head of the Department of Sanitation, his power has run amok in a way that doesn't make sense. Tasked with getting the infected into the Q-Zone, he stabs the healthy from time to time for reasons that are unclear. Sometimes, they seem at cross-purposes with his own needs. And while his fantastically ridiculous character might be right at home in a Coen brothers or superhero movie (both of which are in his wheelhouse), he feels out of place in this film, which is attempting to focus on the humanity of those struggling with loneliness and human connection. "Attempting," though, is the best word. Songbird never quite achieves what it sets out to accomplish, but it certainly deserves a tip of the hat for trying to make a movie about a universally trying time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Songbird takes something the world really experienced -- quarantine -- and transforms it into a dystopian thriller. How does it compare to other dystopian films you've seen?
What does the film say about the fragility of empathy in a fearful environment? How can we keep perspective when we're afraid?
Think through the film with an analytical eye: How do you think they filmed this? Imagine you were an actor in the production, charged with filming yourself. How would it change your performance?
How does the violence in this film and its impact compare to what you might see in a more traditional thriller or action movie?
- On DVD or streaming: March 16, 2021
- Cast: KJ Apa, Sofia Carson, Demi Moore
- Director: Adam Mason
- Studio: STX Entertainment
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence including some bloody images, sexual material, partial nudity and some strong language
- Last updated: August 16, 2021
Our editors recommend
For kids who love emotional thrillers
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch