Sound of Metal is directed by Darius Marder. The film stars Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Lauren Ridloff, and Mathieu Amalric. The film will be released theatrically on November 20, 2020 and for streaming on Amazon Prime Video on December 4, 2020.
Ruben, an ex-addict, is a drummer in a band with his beloved girlfriend Lou, but he finds himself in a frustrating spot when he finds himself losing his hearing, putting his potential music future on hold. At Lou’s insistence, he agrees to join a community for the deaf, learning how to come to terms with his state, unsure of whether to accept life as is, or raise the money for costly surgery to install hearing implants. Will his recent circumstances derail his musical dreams, or will he find a more promising path.
This was a film I honestly knew nothing about prior to being offered the opportunity to screen it. I was vaguely familiar with some of the cast (Riz Ahmed had previously appeared in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Olivia Cooke was in Ready Player One, and Mathieu Amalric had portrayed a villain in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace) but that’s where my knowledge ended. The title, itself quite ambiguous, could be taken any number of ways. After having watched Sound of Metal, I must say I was pleasantly surprised at how effective and dramatic a movie it is, even if it was different from what I expected. It’s a genuinely human story, and the flaws are minimal.
It’s tough to make a movie dealing with a disability and the impact it has on one’s life without feeling preachy or like an after-school special. Fortunately, director Marder proves the masses wrong with Sound of Metal, painting a realistic, believable character study that, while slower paced at times, is rarely boring or uninteresting. This feels like it could be a true story. As nearly all of us know someone who’s deaf or hard of hearing, the film’s a revelation that hits closer to home than you may expect.
The true standout in the cast is its leading man, Riz Ahmed, who plays drummer Ruben, inflicted with hearing impairments following a turbulent music career and a life as an addict, struggles to get his life back on track, figuring out how to keep his career as well as his relationship going. The scenes early in the film of Ruben and Lou (played by Olivia Cooke) build a strong foundation for what’s to come later in the film, and we truly believe these two are a genuine couple who’ve saved each other from a far worse fate. Although he certainly grows throughout the film, we still see the remnants of a turbulent past within him as he struggles to make tough choices in his life and career alike.
You would think a movie called Sound of Metal would have a hard-rocking soundtrack from start to finish, but in actuality, that couldn’t be more untrue here. There are certainly some early scenes of Ruben and company in concert that give that impression, but Marder makes the smart move to let much of the movie be unscored, with ambient, everyday sounds serving at the movie’s soundtrack. This, along with many of the personalities Ruben interacts with, proves ideal for painting an effective picture at one man’s arrival in a community for the deaf. Very few scenes in the movie actually have music in them, and the movie is, surprisingly, stronger for it.
A strong supporting cast helps the end product as well, with another major standout player being Paul Raci as Joe, the caretaker running the community for the deaf Ruben becomes a resident in. Joe stresses that deafness is not a disability, but something to learn to live with. Ruben himself comes to embrace this ideology while at the same time still wanting to get the surgery that had the potential to restore his hearing, which makes for an interesting true-to-life conundrum. And while the movie ends a little too abruptly and conveniently, with a few plot points and characters not revisited the way we’d hope, it’s far from a disappointment.
Sound of Metal is a brutally honest look at the pains of hearing loss and one man’s struggle to become part of society once more, while simultaneously trying to save his career and relationship. It’s a struggle that’s entirely believable, and it makes for one of the best films of the year, avoiding the common cliches and after-school special tropes. A highly recommended film.
Rating: Three-and-a-half stars out of four.
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