Australian Council on Children and the Media

Music

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Not suitable under 13; parental guidance to 15 (domestic violence, substance abuse and addiction, coarse language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Music
  • a review of Music completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 12 January 2021.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not suitable due to scenes of domestic violence, themes of substance addiction and substance abuse, and some coarse language.
Children aged 13–15 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and mature themes.
Children over the age of 15 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Music
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes, violence and coarse language
Length 107 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Zu (Kate Hudson) is a recovering alcoholic and addict, struggling to stay sober and to keep to her parole conditions, when she is suddenly thrust into the role of carer for her half-sister Music (Maddie Ziegler) after their grandmother suddenly dies. Music is an autistic teenager; she is non-verbal and relies on a constant and predictable daily routine to feel safe and happy. She has a keen interest in dogs and has the ability to see life as a Technicolour musical experience. Around her, Music has developed a caring and compassionate community who 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 having the chaotic and disruptive presence of her older sister. It is not an easy time for either of them. As Zu struggles to understand how best to care for her sister’s needs, a kind neighbour, Ebo (Leslie Odom Jr.), steps up to befriend and help them. 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.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Autism; Disability; Neurodivergence; Intergenerational trauma; Substance abuse and addiction; Selling drugs; Being a carer; Community spirit; Responsibility; Resilience; HIV.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie, including:

  • There is an extremely violent scene depicting domestic violence where a young man comes in and sees his parents arguing. His father becomes very aggressive and pushes the young man backwards, causing him to fall and hit his head. We see him lying unconscious with blood pooling around his head. In the same scene, the father is strangling the mother with his hands tightly around her neck and she is struggling to breathe. It is a very traumatic scene, and it is then implied that the young man has died.
  • Sometimes when Music becomes overwhelmed, she lashes out, hitting at those around her and also hitting herself.
  • When Music becomes overwhelmed, one tactic used by people around her is to lie on her and hold her tight in a restrained way. The idea is to make her feel safe and secure and to calm her senses down. For someone who has not seen this strategy used, it looks quite violent and restrictive.
  • When Zu loses something very important, she flies into a rage and begins kicking and smashing things around her. Music is unable to communicate with speech, but she has a machine with some basic communication, and she keeps pressing a button which says “I am scared”.
  • When Zu is drunk, she attacks a man in the hallway, shoving him and swearing at him.
  • Ebo is a boxing teacher. He holds his fists up to his students in a semi-threatening way, but it is only in the interest of teaching. They are not scared by this.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Music’s grandmother suffers a sudden death and Music comes home to find her lying dead on the floor. It is quite a distressing scene as we are not sure whether Music has completely realised what has happened.
  • There are several scenes where Music becomes distressed and has a kind of sensory overload or meltdown. Many children will find her obvious distress difficult to understand, unless they are familiar with these kinds of situations in their own circles.
  • The movie is intertwined with musical and dancing sequences which express the way that Music is able to see and process the world around her. They are mostly bright and beautiful, but there are some which are quite surreal and a little disorientating. For example, in one dance sequence, Ebo is seen climbing out of a shape that looks a little like a coffin, but which turns out to be a giant bible. In another he is seen lying inside an outline of a body, similar to an outline from a crime scene.
  • There are several very emotional scenes where characters are crying. For example, when Zu is about to leave Music in an institution. Another example is when Zu gets into a scrape and starts to drink alcohol again – the next day she is distraught and apologetic with her friend Ebo, crying to him and weeping that she has no-one.
  • Zu wakes up after a night of drinking and she has smashed her nose and has blood on her face and a black eye. Music is very upset and it appears that she has wet herself in bed which is a sign of distress.
  • Music is highly allergic to bee stings. She is stung by a bee and is rushed into hospital. Zu is very upset.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Children in this age group will also find the above-mentioned scenes scary and disturbing. In addition, they will have more awareness of the mature themes in this film.
  • Zu discusses the time that she attempted suicide.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Children in this age group are likely to find some of the above-mentioned scenes emotionally disturbing. In particular, the scene of domestic violence and the scenes where Zu becomes distressed and starts drinking.
  • Children in this age group will be more aware of the mature themes in this film and parents should be prepared to discuss themes of drug addiction, selling illicit drugs, HIV, domestic violence and suicide.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Children in this age group will still find some of the above-mentioned scenes emotionally disturbing. In particular the scene of domestic violence and the scenes where Zu becomes distressed and starts drinking.
  • Children in this age group will be more aware of the mature themes in this film and parents should be prepared to discuss themes of drug addiction, selling illicit drugs, HIV, domestic violence and suicide.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some romantic references in this movie, including:

  • There is a developing romantic affection between Zu and Ebo. She invites him to stay the night. He considers it but decides it’s not a good idea.
  • Zu is talking to someone about her friend Ebo and he stops her and asks if she’s asking him for love advice.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Zu is often walking around in her underwear, but it is not sexualised (not sexy underwear).

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Zu is at Alcoholics Anonymous and is working towards becoming sober. Her journey to be free from addiction is a big part of this film.
  • Zu mentions that her mother (and Music’s mother) was a junkie and is now dead.
  • Zu goes on a drinking binge and becomes very drunk. She becomes violent, abusive and emotional and then goes on to smash her face on a flight of stairs.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Fuck
  • Fucking
  • Shit.

In a nutshell

Music is a musical drama written and produced by pop music star, Sia. It is an emotional film that tenderly portrays the intimate and sometimes challenging relationship between people with a disability and the ones who care for them. Whilst Music’s disability is obvious, it becomes clear that her sister Zu is facing her own battles with mental health and substance abuse. Although it’s a bit of a tear-jerker, this movie is warm-hearted, sensitive and full of positive messages of hope and survival. The music and dance sequences are delightful. Parents should be aware that there are some strong adult themes in this film and therefore it is not suitable for children under the age of 13 and parental guidance is recommended to 15.

The main messages from this movie are that we cannot walk away from our family and our responsibilities; and that having people to love and care for (that love us too) can be our salvation.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Compassion and community spirit.
  • Taking responsibility, even when it is not what you asked for.
  • Not giving up, even when life feels like it is impossible.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Zu sells illicit drugs; some of the drugs she sells are black-market pharmaceuticals for people with health conditions who do not have health insurance. Whilst in Australia we are very lucky to have Universal Health Care (Medicare), parents could talk to their children about why health care and medicine can be unaffordable and inaccessible for so many people in countries like the USA, where individuals rely on insurance to cover their costs. How fair is that system? In that context, do you think that Zu was doing the wrong thing selling those drugs?
  • The director, Sia, has been heavily criticised by some members of the autistic community for using a neurotypical actor to play the role of Music. Parents could discuss with their children whether they think this is a valid criticism and whether there is enough representation of autistic and other neurodiverse actors in films.
  • For many children watching this film, they will themselves identify as being autistic (or being on the autistic spectrum) or will have friends or family who are. Parents could discuss with their children whether they think that the character of Music is a good and sensitive portrayal.

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