Stephen M’s review published on Letterboxd:
Two things I really liked about this film: First, the powerful performance by Riz Ahmed as a heavy metal drummer and former addict confronted with sudden hearing loss. And also the provocative questions is raises about how we see the differently-abled and what we value as central and meaningful in our lives.
The stakes here are high. The character played by Ruben's life is centered around music and performance. He also is not born deaf but rather becomes deaf in young adulthood, and the difference between the two is profound. As he enters a rehab community of deaf people who fully accept and even celebrate their deafness, he's confronted with some serious questions even as he holds onto the promise that an expensive cochlear implant can restore his hearing. (If you know anything about the deaf community, you know that these implants are a very loaded issue).
I appreciated how the writer/director Darius Marder combines the themes of addiction and deafness. Both communities are based on a central tenet of acceptance of oneself. People in AA/NA meetings self-identify as addicts ("My name is Mike and I am an alcoholic") and this is essential to recovery. In the deaf community, there's been a long struggle to take ownership of their unique identity, culture and language. Yet Ruben just cannot accept this for his own life. Ultimately he has to learn there is a difference between stillness and silence.
As many viewers have commented, the use of sound in this film is really terrific and should garner an Oscar nomination. And the performances are powerful - not only Ahmed - who is great - but also Paul Raci (a hearing actor who was raised by deaf parents) who plays the tough but wise caretaker of the rehab community. Finally, there are some touching scenes with Ahmed interacting with a group of deaf children and their teacher (Lauren Ridloff).