Zu (Kate Hudson) is a recovering alcoholic and addict, who’s struggling to stay sober and stick to her parole conditions. Zu is suddenly thrust into the role of carer for her half-sister, Music (Maddie Ziegler), when their grandmother dies.
Music is autistic and nonverbal. She relies on a constant and predictable daily routine to feel safe and happy. She has a keen interest in dogs and the ability to see life as a technicolour musical experience. Music has a caring and compassionate community around her. The people in this community love her and keep an eye out for her in the local neighbourhood.
All of a sudden, Music must come to terms with losing her beloved grandmother, as well as the chaotic and disruptive presence of her older sister. It isn’t an easy time for either of them.
As Zu struggles to understand how best to care for her sister, a kind neighbour, Ebo (Leslie Odom Jr), steps in to help. A strong friendship develops between Zu and Ebo. Zu must decide how she wants to live her life and how Music is going to be part of her plans.
Autism; disability; neurodivergence; intergenerational trauma; substance abuse and addiction; selling drugs; being a carer; community spirit; responsibility; resilience; HIV
Music has some violence. For example:
- There is an extreme scene of domestic violence, which shows a young man interrupting an argument between his parents. His father becomes very aggressive and pushes the young man backwards, causing him to fall and hit his head. The young man lies unconscious with blood pooling around his head. In the same scene, the father has his hands tightly around the mother’s neck and she struggles to breathe. This is a very traumatic scene, and it’s implied that the young man dies.
- When Music becomes overwhelmed, she sometimes lashes out, hitting those around her and also herself.
- When Music becomes overwhelmed, the people around her sometimes use a strategy of lying on her and holding her tightly. The idea is to make her feel safe and secure and to calm her senses. But this strategy might seem quite violent and restrictive to some viewers.
- When Zu loses something very important, she flies into a rage and starts kicking and smashing things around her. Music can’t communicate with speech, but she has a machine that she uses for basic communication. She keeps pressing a button that says, ‘I am scared’.
- When Zu is drunk, she attacks a man in the hallway, shoving and swearing at him.
- Ebo is a boxing teacher. He holds his fists up to his students in a semi-threatening way, but it’s only to teach them. The students aren’t scared.
Music has some romantic references. For example:
- Romantic affection develops between Zu and Ebo. She invites him to stay the night. He considers it but decides it isn’t a good idea.
- Zu is talking to someone about her friend Ebo. The friend stops her and asks whether she’s asking him for love advice.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Music shows some use of substances. For example:
- Zu goes to Alcoholics Anonymous and is working towards becoming sober. Her journey to be free from addiction is a big part of the story.
- Zu mentions that her mother (and Music’s mother) was a junkie and is now dead.
- Zu goes on a drinking binge and gets very drunk. She becomes violent, abusive and emotional. She smashes her face on a flight of stairs.
Nudity and sexual activity
Music has some partial nudity. For example, Zu often walks around in her underwear, but this isn’t sexualised behaviour.
There’s no product placement in Music.
Music has some coarse language.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Music is a musical drama written and produced by singer-songwriter Sia about the relationship between Music, who is autistic, and her sister Zu, who has her own battles with mental health and substance abuse. This movie is a warm-hearted, sensitive tear-jerker that tenderly portrays the intimate and sometimes challenging relationship between people with a disability and their carers. It’s full of positive messages of hope and survival. The music and dance sequences are also delightful.
It’s important to be aware that Music has some strong adult themes and therefore isn’t suitable for children under 13 years. We also recommend parental guidance for children aged 13-15 years.
The main messages from this movie are that can’t walk away from family and responsibilities, but that family love and responsibility can be our salvation.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include compassion, community spirit, responsibility and perseverance.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like the following:
- Illicit drug sales: Zu sells illicit drugs, but some of these are black-market pharmaceuticals for people who have health conditions but no health insurance. In Australia we have universal health care in the form of Medicare, but in countries like the US, access to health care and medicine depends on having private health insurance, which means it’s unaffordable and inaccessible for many people. Is this fair? In this context, do you think Zu is doing the wrong thing by selling those drugs?
- Cast diversity and inclusivity: members of the autistic community have criticised Sia for casting a neurotypical actor in the role of Music. What do you think about this issue? Is there enough representation of autistic and other neurodiverse actors in movies?
- The movie’s representation of autism: many children who see this movie will identify as autistic (or on the autistic spectrum) or will have friends or family who are. Is the character of Music a sensitive portrayal of an autistic person?