Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal ★★★★★

“I wonder, uh, all these mornings you’ve been sitting in my study, sitting, have you had any moments of stillness? Because you’re right, Ruben. The world does keep moving, and it can be a damn cruel place. But for me, those moments of stillness, that place, that’s the kingdom of God.”

Riz Ahmed is a revelation. Someone get this man a Best Actor nomination, please. EDIT: He got one. Praise be to Riz.

Universal in its message, but incredibly unique in its storytelling, Sound of Metal takes us on an intimate journey with a metal drummer named Ruben who all of a sudden begins to rapidly lose his hearing. Ruben has had a history of drug use — “everything,” as he described it in one scene. With music, though, and his girlfriend Lou, who is also the band’s lead vocalist, he was able to rescue himself from that dark place and achieve sobriety. But when he loses his hearing, what does it matter? What will keep him from that free-fall?

It’s a journey of acceptance, of purpose. It’s a grieving story in a way, but it’s also about finding the little things in life that make it all worth it. Whether it be the small connections you make with a new friend, finding the music of life in its natural rhythms, or giving the parents of a deaf child a reason to smile, there certainly are a lot of great things that Ruben encounters — but still, there’s the natural tug-of-war with life, with different urges… with memories of a life of sound.

This was Darius Marder’s feature directorial debut? Astounding. Simply astounding, and wow, talk about assured. I’ll be watching his career closely, because if his future works examine these types of complex, fractured, but healing characters, sign me up… it’s catharsis exemplified on-screen, and it’s painful, brutal, but extremely moving and meditative. And that’s movie magic, to me. Bravo, Mr. Marder.

And regarding the performances, there are so many fantastic ones. Riz Ahmed, I already said before, but he’s simply amazing. This is his best performance that I’ve seen from him, but he’s always turned in great performance after great performance. Olivia Cooke as Lou, gosh, she’s wonderful. I read that Amazon is campaigning for her to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress, and that’d be so, so deserved. And then Paul Raci as Joe… how can you not love Joe? As the selfless and patient community leader, he helps give Ruben perspective on life itself — to remember what he still has, not what he’s lost.

You’ve probably heard about this movie’s ingenious sound design, and you betcha, it’s a killer. The garbled noises, and sometimes, complete silence that deaf and/or hard of hearing people experience on a daily basis is represented in film like I’ve never seen before. This movie needs a Best Sound Oscar nomination this upcoming awards season — and this is your reminder that it’s crap that they combined Sound Editing & Sound Mixing into one award. 

Andrew Chrzanowski asked, “has there ever been a dinner table scene in a movie of a dozen deaf people all talking in sign language?” To answer that question: I’ve never seen it. Maybe it’s been done before, but I’ve no idea. Those scenes in particular were quite beautiful in their modesty. People breaking bread together: united and strengthened by their characteristics. Being deaf doesn’t mean you can’t make connections.

This movie is wonderful in its (seemingly) effortless case for representation. With ASL used prominently, a cast that features several deaf and/or hard of hearing people, as well as diversity in race and ethnicity in the cast… this is why representation matters. Diverse opinions, diverse groups = incredible storytelling.

One of my favorites of this year, probably my favorite film of the 2020 awards season so far. Highly, highly recommended.

“Ruben. As you know, everybody here shares in the belief that being deaf is not a handicap. Not something to fix. It’s pretty important around here. All these kids… all of us, need to be reminded of it every day.”

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