So my first trip to the cinema for 2021 turns out to be a bit of a controversial film. Music is Australian singer Sia’s directorial debut, and it’s quite good if a bit shallow in places. The film is centered around a non-verbal, low functioning autistic girl, and her estranged recovering alcoholic sister. The autistic girl, Music, is played by Maddie Ziegler, who isn’t autistic. And this is where most of the controversy stems from. I’m not convinced that it’s a big deal. Maddie did her homework and nails the role, albeit a role that may be a little too much on the cliched side.
Music’s daily routine is just that. A fixed routine that helps her cope with the world around her, but one day when she returns from one of her walks, she finds her grandmother and carer has collapsed and died, causing her to become stressed and have an autistic meltdown. Her kindly elderly neighbour comes to the rescue and calms her down, and calls an ambulance.
Kate Hudson plays the role of Zu, Music’s estranged and addiction recovering but fit as sister, who also as it turns out is Music’s only living relative. So of course she reluctantly gets roped into looking after Music. It’s a role that she’s not cut out for, but another neighbour comes around to help out, Ebo played by Leslie Odom Jr. who seems o have an instant connection with Zu, but one that becomes complicated later in the film.
Now Music the film is a bit of a musical, but not in the sense that everybody sings their lines, more so as a kind of Western interpretation of a Bollywood film. And that is that the film is populated with offbeat musical dream sequences used to portray the feelings inside Music’s head. At first, these musical interludes are jarring and feel like nothing more than a series of music videos casting the film in the role of a sort of big-budget entertainment album launch. Fortunately, as the film progresses these musical pantomimes seem to fit the structure of the film and help make Music the film an enjoyable if oddball experience.
The biggest problem with Music the film is also kind of one of its strengths if that’s possible. Whilst the obvious themes are autism and inherited behaviors, along with love and redemption, Sia covers a lot of different social issues, but with the time constraints fails to deliver an engaging narrative for anything but the key themes.
Some of the keys aspects of the central themes were how Music was able to bring people together just by being herself. The saying, it takes a village to raise a child applies very much to this film. The film also nicely highlighted how most people respond to autistic people, in a scene where Music has a public meltdown we see strangers standing, staring, and judging.
Music the film is also seen through very rose-tinted glasses, but I think this is essential to lift the film from being too dark and serious. In essence, despite its flaws Music the film is a celebration of life, no matter what your disabilities might be, because of reflection, most of the characters have their own issues, but with love and support we can all learn to live a life worth living.
Rating: M Suitable for mature audiences 16 years and over. Violence & offensive language.
GEEKERY rating: 4/5