The Von Trapp Family: A Life of Music

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
The Von Trapp Family: A Life of Music Movie Poster Image
Classic tale from daughter's viewpoint; some violence.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 98 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Underscores value of courage in the face of repression; encourages standing up for what's right. Looks at challenges of family after death of loved one; promotes acceptance of changing circumstances.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Heroine is loving, competent, and industrious; she must learn to accept change and open her heart to others. Parents are reliable, generous, and smart and must learn to adjust to circumstances. All emerge as brave. Villains are irredeemable Nazis.


A young man is chased and brutally beaten by a gang of thugs. Family is threatened by Nazis; suspenseful efforts to avoid capture.


Derogatory references to Jews.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

 A villain pours himself a drink. Several characters smoke.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Von Trapp Family: A Life of Music recreates the story so beautifully told in The Sound of Music: A talented, reconstituted family struggles with surging Nazism in Austria in the late 1930s. This movie is based on the book Memories Before and After The Sound of Music, an autobiography by the oldest Von Trapp daughter, Agathe (called Liesl in the classic musical). Though there is music -- the children singing together, their first performances, some solo selections -- the film is a drama. Early scenes depict events and emotions surrounding the death of Captain Von Trapp's wife, the mother of Agathe and six other children. Sequences set during the German-Austrian "unification" are suspenseful, and, in one instance, Agathe witnesses a brutal attack. Still, it's the same uplifting, heartfelt story with a few significant changes that come from the book.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byNick1952 October 5, 2019

Great film, but not accurate!

The musical and film, "The Sound of Music", is wonderful, but not accurate in a number of ways. I expected "The von Trapp Family: a Life of Music... Continue reading
Adult Written byJanet R. June 11, 2018

Von Trapp Family: A Life of Music

Really good drama. But I would like to have seen more about their early life in America. This story pretty muuch tells, more acurately, what the Sound of Music... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

Told in a series of flashbacks, THE VON TRAPP FAMILY: A LIFE OF MUSIC recounts the tale of a large, loving, musically talented family in 1930s Austria. When Captain Georg Von Trapp (Matthew Macfadyen) loses his beloved wife and the mother of his seven children, the oldest daughter, Agathe (played by Eliza Bennett as a young adult and Rosemary Harris as the older Agathe) takes over all the maternal responsibilities. Close to her father and fearful of losing him to Maria (Yvonne Catterfeld), the novitiate nun turned nanny with whom he's falling in love, Agathe is troubled and behaves badly. Events in Salzburg, however, bring the family close together. Germany is now ruled hand and heart by Adolf Hitler and his supporters. The Nazis are moving quickly to overtake an economically strapped Austria, and some of its citizens have signed on to the evil propaganda. With the aid of her lifelong friend, Sigi (Johannes Nussbaum), Agathe's awareness of impending danger is heightened. Joining Maria, the young woman must convince her patriotic but naive father that the family's only chance for survival is to use their musical talents to escape Salzburg and make a new life in America.

Is it any good?

Solid performances by the principal cast, lovely imagery, and a heartwarming tale bring this more dramatic version of the classic musical The Sound of Music to life. Based on the real-life events described in Agathe Von Trapp's autobiography, the movie highlights characters and details new to viewers. Particularly moving (and, spoiler alert, ultimately shattering) is the relationship between Agathe and her lifelong friend, Sigi. Colonel Von Trapp as played by Matthew Macfadyen is warm and present and provides a stark contrast to Agathe's growing understanding of the events that will follow. The film introduces the Von Trapp family's relationship with famous opera star Lotte Lehman (Annette Dasch). All in all, a nice addendum to the iconic musical, and the movie stands on its own as well. Fine for families; however, two poignant deaths make it questionable for very young or super-sensitive kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how filmmakers often use a personal story to bring history to life on-screen. How does watching the Von Trapp family's drama promote understanding of what all of Europe was experiencing during the rise of Nazism? Are the roots of World War II made clearer to you?

  • Discuss the differences between the real Sigi, Agathe's young male friend in this film, and the fictional Rolfe, the messenger with whom Liesl was in love in The Sound of Music. Why do you think the filmmakers chose to make Rolfe a Nazi sympathizer? How might portraying the real story of Sigi have changed your feelings about the musical?

  • What was the purpose of telling the tale in flashbacks from the point of view of an elderly Agathe? How did the remembered story resonate in the present day? What does that say about the commonality of human experience over time and place?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

Themes & Topics

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