The Song of Names (PG-13)

Age 13+

Touching but slow mystery/drama about impact of Holocaust.

The Song of Names” is a somber drama about remembrance set in an environment of classical music and against the backdrop of World War II. The story jumps between three timelines, one of which centers on the two main characters as preteen boys, who are shown stealing with both glee and justification. Characters drink, and — as the film takes place from 1939 to 1986 — they also smoke. Other than one use of “f---,” swearing is mild (“crap,” “b------”). World War II is part of the plot; Londoners huddle in shelters during a Blitz air raid, and the arm of a dead body is seen protruding from the rubble of a bombed home. A main character vents his anger by punching a man in the face. Though it may be difficult for teens to grasp the nuances of the adult characters’ decisions, the film is touching and presents some beautiful ideas about loss, grief, trauma and perseverance. And it thoughtfully showcases Jewish culture, including rituals, traditions and history. (113 minutes)

Steven Universe: Future (TV-PG)


Age 10+

Deceptively simple series about real, powerful emotions.

Steven Universe: Future” is an animated series that continues the characters and story lines of “Steven Universe,” with the main character now age 16. As the show takes place during a time of peace on Earth, major battles and villains aren’t as common as in other Steven Universe stories, but there’s still some violence and conflict, such as a fight between Steven (voiced by Zach Callison) and the villain Jasper in which the two punch each other/make each other fly into the air (no one is injured except for a crawling bug that Jasper stomps on). There’s no cursing, but characters sometimes say rude things to one another, such as when Steven is called a “weak, sappy, useless piece of dirt.” Characters show strong empathy and compassion for each other; as Steven says, “If there’s a chance I can help, shouldn’t I at least try?” As in previous stories, Steven is a terrific role model: kind, thoughtful, brave and loyal. He also enjoys having a good time and shows appreciation for his friends and family. The mostly female characters in his universe each have their own quirks, as well as agency and dignity. By taking an unusual focus — how people heal from trauma — this animated show reaches impressive emotional heights. It’s both entertaining and moving for tweens, teens and adults, especially families who want to watch together. (10 11-minute episodes)

Available via Cartoon Network streaming.

Astronomy Club (TV-MA)


Age 14+

Weird, funny, fresh comedy skewers life and race.

Astronomy Club” is a sketch show starring eight entertainers of color, most of whom are graduates of NYC’s improv group Upright Citizens Brigade. Humor can tend toward the mature: for example, a skit in which a “thicc” superhero distracts villains with her “powerful posterior” (which ends with a group of superheroes all smoking joints together), or one about a group of slave ship “passengers” who find erotic inspiration in their close quarters. Violence is comedic, like a scene in which a group of talking gingerbread people have their home destroyed by a child celebrating the holidays. There’s plenty of strong language, including “f---,” “motherf----rs,” “s---,” “a--hole,” “g--d---,” “hell,” “damn” and the n-word. In general, the comedy punches up and makes fun of ideas, not people, and the troupe shows courage and teamwork in taking on cultural standards and sacred cows. (Six approximately 20-minute episodes)

Available via Netflix streaming.

Servant (TV-MA)


Age 15+

Spooky series has great twists despite slow pace.

Servant” is a dark TV series about a couple who’s suffered a tragedy and whose lives goes from bad to worse when they hire a nanny to care for their infant son. The deaths of children drive much of the horror of this series, and though we don’t see them depicted on-screen, children and other characters are in constant, often mortal, danger. We do see other violence: live eels are nailed to a cutting board in preparation for cooking, a character allows a baby’s head to hit the side of a crib. Characters have an affair; we see them kissing before the camera cuts away; a woman is nude in a nonsexual context (taking a bath), but her private parts are covered; in another scene, a character kneads her breasts to help with a breast-feeding issue, but most of the breast is covered. Adults drink wine at dinners and don’t act drunk, but in some scenes, drink more heavily and talk about the drinking helping with emotional pain. Language includes “f---,” “s---,” and “a--hole,” along with crude words for sexual acts and body parts: “t--s,” “j--- off.” A couple’s wealth is underlined, but it’s clear that their socioeconomic status doesn’t bring them happiness. (10 half-hour episodes)

Available via Apple TV+ streaming.

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