A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The message boils down to "Don't give up." Explores fragility of empathy in a fearful environment, the need to keep perspective when we're afraid.
Positive Role Models
Diverse representations include a young Latinx woman who lives with her grandmother, a veteran who served in Afghanistan and is confined to a wheelchair (who discusses the struggle of acceptance), and a successful Black small-business owner.
Violence & Scariness
Intense blood splatter indicates that someone is shot. Guns are used to threaten and control. Government agents drag people away unwillingly to a place where they'll likely die. Stabbings. A shoot-out. Strangling. Characters exist in constant peril. Sexual coercion is a subplot.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
In a sexual situation, a woman is dressed in a sexy bra and thong; there's a close-up of her bottom. A young man is shown nude in the shower; he's seen mostly from the side, no sensitive body parts are exposed. A romance is the impetus for the plot to unfold.
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Strong language includes "ass," "s--t," "a--hole," "pr--k," and "scum."
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Products & Purchases
Coors Light beer is prominently displayed, including a character drinking it from the bottle. Apple products.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters smoke cigarettes, with attention brought to the fact that smoking can be deadly. Main character opens his refrigerator; it's full of beer, which he then drinks.
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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." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
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.