Parents' Guide to

The Song of Names

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Touching but slow mystery/drama about impact of Holocaust.

Movie PG-13 2019 113 minutes
The Song of Names Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 1 parent review

age 13+

Strong narrative but feels a bit slapdash

The film is a compelling story that does not make for a great film. Not because it does not have some key ingredients, but because it feels like it was put together a bit too slapdash. There is an emotional core when the men are adults that seems to have been edited can't tell me that neither Roth nor Owen can't play strong emotional actors. The film begins with loss and ends with loss and maybe that is what feels unsatisfactory, perhaps I want the film to give me something it was never meant to do. Strong narrative, solid to strong performances and musical sadness throughout.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This film is heartfelt and touching, but it isn't necessarily moving. That's not necessarily a bad thing (not everyone really wants a good cry), and the movie does manage to extend understanding. While films remembering the Holocaust aren't unusual, those that show us how the pain of that loss of life manifests in an individual person are far more unusual. We meet Dovidl (called "David") as a child (played at this age by Luke Doyle) whose father makes an impossible decision out of love and sacrifice. As the war wages, David doesn't know whether his Jewish family is dead or alive, and The Song of Names plays out the kind of behavior that can result from that kind of psychological unrest. After David's disappearance, Martin feels a similar unrest because he doesn't know what happened to David.

Unfortunately, when Martin eventually does learn the truth, he doesn't seem to be satisfied -- a feeling most viewers will second. The film's complex storyline, which jumps back and forth between multiple timeframes, falls victim to the usual book-adaptation trap: There's just too much to condense into two hours to do the story justice. As it stands, it's hard to get attached to either David or Martin, even though the talent of the young actors who play them as children is outstanding and their scenes are the most engaging. As young Martin, newcomer Misha Handley very effectively transmits the jealousy a child would feel toward an interloper suddenly added to his life -- taking over half his bedroom and most of his father's attention. But he soon embraces David as a friend, brother, and fellow mischief maker. The matters that relate to the movie's title are profound, but it's hard to appreciate the direction David takes with his transformative experience. At the last minute, we're informed that David may be sympathetic, but he's never been a great guy; that type of complex, highly flawed character plays well in books, but in movies, we wonder why we've spent two hours tracking down a man who we're told was never worth our time.

Movie Details

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