Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal ★★★★

It’s a given that the sound design would be a crucial element in a film about a drummer who suddenly loses his hearing, but Sound of Metal is so artfully crafted on that front that it nearly develops a new way of experiencing a movie. Instead of a point of view, we get a point of hearing. Just one example: as Ruben (Riz Ahmed) tries to communicate with a pharmacist, the “perspective” shifts so that we first hear what Ruben is hearing—muffled, claustrophobic murmurs—then switch to the pharmacist’s experience, where Ruben’s panicked questioning is loud and clear. Sound of Metal is far more than this element, however. Ahmed is a wonder, especially as the movie opens up and also becomes a story of addiction. A recovering addict, Ruben ends up at a retreat center for deaf people with substance abuse in their past; told to spend time each morning journaling in a barren room, Ruben smashes the donut on his table, then hastily tries to reform the crumbled pieces into a complete circle. He’s a fixer—he identifies a problem and pursues the solution—but his deafness is something that may not be able to be “fixed.” All in all, this is an incredibly impressive feature directorial debut for Darius Marder, who caps his sobering, harshly honest story with a beautifully envisioned and exquisitely handled ending. Few films have so acutely captured the pain that can be involved in moving forward.