Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal ★★★½

A mature, delicate and often brutal character portrait of a heavy metal drummer who wakes up one morning to discover he has lost 75% of his hearing, Darius Marder’s first feature Sound of Metal establishes him as a deft and careful storyteller and provides further proof that Riz Ahmed is one of the most unique and compelling performers of his generation.

Fittingly, one of the more memorable aspects of this film is its use of sound which cuts between regular audio and protagonist Ruben’s degraded hearing to pointed effect, often to highlight his growing sense of alienation and to establish a painful distinction between the conflicting worlds that he and those around him inhabit. Between the sound design, the intelligent, naturalistic screenplay and Ahmed’s intimate performance this film does an incredible job at building a connection between the audience and protagonist – you learn so much about Ruben in the quiet moments when he’s sitting and processing his thoughts, in the way he answers a question or reacts to a new obstacle – there’s so much communicated without relying on excessive dialogue or exposition (which of course feeds into the themes of the story), instead we’re invited to engage with these characters as we would real people; to empathize without judgement and eschew easy classification in favour of genuine understanding. Before seeing this Olivia Cooke hadn't done much for me either way but she is fantastic here and so is the rest of the cast – everyone feels like a real person and even those that only show up briefly end up leaving a major impression.

While it’s not personally something that lends itself to multiple rewatches nor do I think it will stick with me the way some of my other favourites of the year have this is still a very well-made and purposeful film that captures the essence of a character and his dilemma with an authentic, tender intelligence. If anything, Riz Ahmed’s performance should garner serious awards consideration (he is so fucking good here) and will hopefully grant him access to more challenging, complex roles in the future – anything to get out of Venom 2, amirite?

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