Movie Review: Sound of Metal
Sound of Metal is about Ruben, a rock and roll drummer, who discovers he's going deaf. Ruben's partner and band member Lou is worried that Ruben will relapse into his addictions and calls Ruben's sponsor for advice. Ruben goes to live at a sober house for the deaf where he learns how to sign and to live with his hearing loss. Yet, it's not enough for Ruben. He wants what he lost back and he does what he can to get the money to pay for an expensive implant surgery, which will cut him off from the new community he's found. The film stars Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Mathieu Amalric, and Lauren Ridloff. The film is written with a story by Derek Cianfrance and Darius Marder and a screenplay by Darius and Abraham Marder and directed by Darius Marder. The film is streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime.
I want you to sit for a moment. Just sit and listen to the small noises that surround you. I can hear the dog breathing as he dozes, the toaster lowering breakfast into its bowels and the hum of the refrigerator. Even these small sounds are small comfort and would feel like a tragedy to lose. What Sound of Metal has done better than any other film with a similar theme is it gives us a small idea of what a tremendous loss a sense can be for a person, but it reminds us that there is life without sound if we're willing to accept it and move forward.
I so appreciate that this film finds within itself the life affirming nature of a community. The deaf community is lively, vibrant, and active. When Ruben engages with his new community, when he really tries he finds the humanity and the common ground he thought he lost with his hearing. Not only does he learn to recover from his addiction with other deaf addicts, he learns joy from the deaf children at the school. It's beautiful to see people thriving while deaf.
Sound of Metal, while it engages in Ruben's pity party and doesn't sugar coat the trauma one can experience with a loss of this kind, there is never any doubt that the people in the community would rather live with their deafness that try and find away to fix it. As Joe explains to Ruben, they see their deafness not as a disability to correct. We've seen though that Ruben is not that person. He's a person who needs to fix things, needs to keep moving. Despite how he has grown in the community, he still feels he needs to get back what he's lost.
There is also a unique loss throughout the film that's worth noting. I don't know enough about sound in film production to know who's responsible for what exactly and I apologize, but I think I will credit sound editor Maria Carolina Santana Caraballo-Gramcko and sound mixer Phillip Bladh. Bladh, Caraballo-Gramcko and their teams have created something truly awesome with the sound. There are periods where we as viewers are experiencing the loss as Ruben is or we experience life as a hearing person in a deaf world. I especially love their work on the sound Ruben hears once he receives his implants.
We see the disappointment on Ruben's face instantly when he knows that the implants aren't going to fully restore his hearing. We hear what it's now like in Ruben's head with electrical impulses replacing his ear bones. It's so much more apparent how much he has truly lost when he is at a party thrown by Lou's father. We hear the beautiful music that Richard and Lou are making, but as we come back to Ruben, the sound slowly shifts little by little until we hear the full breadth of how Ruben hears the music that's being played and the acceptance that he will never hear like he did ever again, plays out on his face.
Sound of Metal wouldn't work if the film didn't have the great actors it does. The film hinges on the performance of Riz Ahmed and he nails it. From learning how to drum to learning to sign, Ahmed put in the work and the results are awe inspiring. He's able to disappear completely into Ruben, his struggles, his pain, and his need to fix what isn't broken, but is gone. There is never once that you see the actor and not the character and he truly sells the last heart breaking beats of the film with just his eyes and his face.
I loved and felt every moment of this terrific film. Sound of Metal is sensitive, powerful, and ultimately hopeful while never being miraculous. There is so much to love and appreciate about the craft and the beating, beautiful heart of Sound of Metal. I can't encourage you enough to watch this film and then sit with it for a while. A masterpiece.