Música Review – The Biggest Surprise of the Year So Far

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Música releases on Prime Video on April 4th, 2024.


I don’t know if what I’m about to state next will provoke reactions of shock or total indifference, but Rudy Mancuso was completely unknown to me until I watched Música. I was entirely unfamiliar with his apparently famous work on Vine and YouTube. Personally, Camila Mendes (Do Revenge) was the main ‘attraction’ of this film and who made me sit in front of the television, such is her talent and natural charm, but curiosity peaked when I realized that Mancuso was not only going to act but also direct, write, produce, and compose the score for what’s ultimately a movie based on his life.

Música tells the story of Rudy (Mancuso), a young man who has synesthesia – a perceptual phenomenon where stimulation of one sense leads to involuntary experiences in other senses, such as hearing a sound that evokes a particular image or a smell being associated with a color – and who sees his life turning complicated by having to deal with the pressure of an uncertain future influenced by love, family, and the Brazilian-American culture of someone living in Newark, New York. In this particular case, Rudy can associate everyday noises with melodies and rhythm, creating music in his own head.


Música Critique

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Every year, cinephiles are presented with unimaginable surprises. Films that we never anticipate watching fall before us and, unexpectedly, surpass any pre-defined expectations. Música is the latest example and the biggest surprise of 2024 to date. Mancuso elevates an admittedly generic premise developed through a formulaic narrative, but the immense creativity and distinct directorial style of the artist completely transform a movie that would easily be forgettable without his unique, original, even unprecedented vision concerning some aspects.

Starting right there, Mancuso is likely the first filmmaker to bring synesthesia to the big screen not only in a dazzling, captivating manner but, above all, in an understandable, empathetic way. The filmmaker ‘suffers’ from the same condition – in fact, the character Rudy is, for all intents and purposes, a very close version of Mancuso himself – and Música portrays it without taboos, addressing the problems it brings, but also the gift it can be. For all this, one might expect the music to be the only notable technical highlight…

I couldn’t be more wrong. Música is a genuinely impressive multi-department work of art. It’s the kind of film that made me fall in love with cinema, where literally every aspect that makes up a movie has a palpable impact on the big screen. From the construction of mobile sets to Shane Hurlbut’s dynamic cinematography, without forgetting the culturally suitable costume design and the loose, fluent use of the Portuguese language – freaking hallelujah! – as well as the mixture of ordinary sounds and rhythmic choreography, Mancuso relies on a fantastic crew whose phenomenal work culminates in a long uninterrupted take that traverses numerous scenes with different characters, storylines, lighting, locations, and, of course, music.


Música can be described in multiple forms, as it has narrative characteristics associated with coming-of-age stories and rom-com flicks, but it also contains a musical layer. However, just as nobody ever interrupts a dramatic scene to start singing, Mancuso also doesn’t let his semi-autobiography fall into the pit of cheap formulas and cliches, breaking many conventional elements of these (sub)genres, such as the transmutation from a ‘love triangle’ to a ‘love pentagon’ – forgive me, I recognize it sounds bad.

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At one point in the film, Rudy not only has to deal with an old relationship – representing a safe yet unattractive, even unhappy life path – and a recent love affair – representing an uncertain yet dreamy, hopeful future – but also the pressure from his mother and his family’s culture, as well as his love for puppetry and music. It’s a very realistic demonstration of the tremendous stress that young people feel when they are almost ‘forced’ by others to have their whole life prepared and planned from a professional, personal, and romantic point of view. At its core, Música is a story about learning to love ourselves, what we do, and what we enjoy.

The romance between Isabella (Mendes) and Rudy couldn’t be more natural, considering that the actors themselves are currently romantically involved. Their chemistry leaps off the screen, contributing immensely to the emotional investment of the audience in the characters. Many will choose an interaction between the two in a hospital as the most important moment of their relationship, but an earlier sequence in a park reveals a fundamental aspect of any romantic bond and one of the main themes of Música: consideration for the other’s feelings. Although Isabella cannot see and hear the same things as Rudy, she can feel what he feels, creating an intimate connection often inexplicable – known by the name of ‘love’.


As a director and composer, there’s no measure for Mancuso’s potential – many filmmakers can only dream of possessing such a personal directorial style. As a writer – with the help of Dan Lagana (American Vandal) – and, especially, as an actor, his inexperience is more noticeable. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that there’s genuine chemistry with Mendes or that she’s one of the most interesting actresses working today – she’s frequently the anchor in this movie – perhaps Música would suffer more from certain dialogues – Mancuso’s real mother plays the protagonist’s mother, which led to a lot of amateur improvisation, but always with the heart in the right place.

Honestly, the only major issue with Música is its rushed ending. For a movie that dedicates so much time to treating its primary subject matters with due care, even risking narrative decisions that may alienate some viewers with more basic expectations, it’s overly utopian for truly complex problems to be resolved so quickly in the last few minutes. I wouldn’t mind seeing another 10 or even 15 minutes added to the third act.

In Conclusion

Música exceeds all expectations, becoming the biggest surprise of the year to date, and serving as a showcase for Rudy Mancuso’s immeasurable talent. A multi-department success that elevates a semi-autobiography about love, family, and Brazilian-American culture, transcending many of the barriers of the genres it represents, and revealing the world of synesthesia in a truly cinematic manner. Technically impressive and thematically rich with addictive music all around and genuine chemistry among the entire cast. Rudy did take it higher.



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Written by Manuel São Bento

Articles Published: 47

Portuguese critic with a tremendous passion for cinema, television, and the art of filmmaking. An unbiased perspective from someone who has stopped watching trailers since 2017.

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