George Clark’s review published on Letterboxd:
Sound of Metal is a 2019 American drama released worldwide in 2020. Directed and co-written by Darius Marder and starring Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Lauren Ridloff and Mathieu Amalric, it tells the story of a drummer who begins to lose his hearing and struggles with his past addictions.
Sound of Metal presents the struggles of a man trying to find his inner tranquillity whilst accepting his inevitable loss of hearing perfectly. It's a captivating tale of self-acceptance as it depicts how sudden changes could destroy your whole life in an instant whilst also giving you the opportunity to change your life for the better and find a way to adapt, move on and accept who you are. We forget just how much sound effects our lives, it's in virtually everything we do, so watching how Ruben copes in the early stages compared to the end of the film was truly moving as it makes the film feel incredibly realistic for its entire runtime.
With Sound of Metal and Mogul Mowgli playing to overwhelmingly positive praise at many festivals this year, this is the year Ahmed gets the big break we've all been hoping for since his breakout performance in Dan Gilroy’s masterwork Nightcrawler back in 2014. From the very start he commands every aspect of the screen, offering a fierce yet entirely vulnerable performance throughout and, for me, was truly phenomenal as he puts in one of the year’s best performances as Ruben, a heavy metal drummer who loses his hearing. For the most part, the heavy lifting of the film is left to Ahmed, and he handles it effortlessly putting in a moving and unforced turn that, while characterised by moments of rage and destruction, is ultimately a journey of acceptance and finding what's most important in ones life.
However, what the film does best of all is how it handles it's sound. The film portrayed two very distinct situations of hearing, by juxtaposing the muted or distorted sound quality in the perspective of Ruben compared to what others are hearing around him. This is, front and foremost, one of the best uses of sound in any film this year. It's transitioned too flawlessly throughout and, amongst some truly special scenes, elevates many aspects perfectly.
At the end of the day, it's clear that Sound of Metal is a furious, clinical and brilliant attempt at putting the viewer inside Ruben's head, hearing what he hears and feeling what he feels. There's no doubt in my mind that this is a film that deserves to be nominated for several Oscars as the film ultimately portrays hearing loss as less of a burden and more like just another way to live. For that, it's truly outstanding and should command the upmost respect from its viewers upon every watch.
2020 Releases Ranked