A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Under the Silver Lake is a long, bizarre L.A.-based film noir from the director of It Follows. Violence isn't constant but is extreme when it happens: A man's face is bashed in (lots of blood and gore), a woman is shot under water (blood streams), characters use guns, a man beats up little kids for vandalizing cars, dead animals are seen, and more. Sexual content is also graphic. Several topless women are shown, there's a very brief full-frontal shot, and characters have sex in a pretty explicit scene. The main character (Andrew Garfield) sleeps with more than one partner and masturbates in one scene. Language includes multiple uses of "f--k" and more. Characters often drink and smoke casually, and there's potential drug use.
What's the story?
In UNDER THE SILVER LAKE, unemployed Sam (Andrew Garfield) lives a do-nothing existence in his Hollywood apartment, obsessed with secret codes hidden in pop culture and with using binoculars to peer at his neighbors. One day he sees Sarah (Riley Keough) in the swimming pool and becomes fascinated by her. She invites him over for an evening, but when he returns the next day, she's vanished -- moved out in the middle of the night. Sam starts investigating, coming upon many strange clues, such as a serial dog killer, a mysterious 'zine, an old cereal box, Janet Gaynor, a dead billionaire, and a band that may have clues hidden among its song lyrics. As Sam drifts through a surreal Los Angeles following leads -- and getting sprayed by a skunk -- he discovers mysteries that are deeper, and stranger, than anything he ever imagined.
Is it any good?
This film noir plays out on a huge, unwieldy, everything-including-the-kitchen-sink canvas; it's bold and baffling, possibly great, but possibly a great folly. Under the Silver Lake -- David Robert Mitchell's follow-up to his stunning It Follows -- feels like a sophomore slump, even though it's actually Mitchell's third film (The Myth of the American Sleepover was his debut feature). It's like an effort to overcome writer's block by free-associating images and ideas and sticking them all in, without discernment or restraint. It's also a long movie, with many, many characters, some of whom occasionally return and others who are seen only once. First-time viewers might actually want to take notes.
But Mitchell's touch behind the camera is sure and confident, and he creates a wonderfully languid cityscape, filled with dreamers and oddballs. The wide, beautifully composed images create a mood that you almost want to breathe in, and the sound design -- and a fine score by Disasterpiece -- is delightfully mysterious and imaginative. Casting Garfield was a brilliant touch; his general amiability helps viewers latch on to this character and makes them want to continue following him, even as his adventures grow more and more bizarre -- and more starkly pessimistic. Under the Silver Lake leaves off with a bit of a strange, sour note, but it's not easily forgotten and perhaps cryptic enough to revisit.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Under the Silver Lake's violence. At its most intense, is it exciting or shocking? What did the filmmakers do to achieve this effect?
How is sex portrayed? What values are imparted?
One character implies that there's nothing meaningful on Earth and that the best bet is to leave. How do you feel about that sentiment? What do you find meaningful about our planet?
What's a "film noir"? What messages does the genre seek to convey? Does this movie qualify as one?
- In theaters: April 19, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: June 17, 2019
- Cast: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace
- Director: David Robert Mitchell
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 139 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, language throughout and some drug use
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love thrills
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