Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I sat down to write a review of Sound of Metal late last night and ended up spending over half an hour just reading the reviews of friends on here instead. This must surely be one of the most reviewed films on Letterboxd, and so many heartfelt and perceptive summaries have already been written that I feel there's little I can add here (but I'll try).

As someone who loves music, and has been to plenty of loud gigs over the years, the film left me in a very thoughtful mood. It must be so difficult firstly to go through such a seismic, life-changing ordeal as this, but then also to find acceptance. I imagine it's impossible for any fictional film to do justice to what it must be like, but Riz Ahmed gives what feels like a truly authentic performance in the central role as the drummer losing his hearing and everything associated with it - his communication with others, his passion, his livelihood.

A film such as this one depends so much on legitimacy, and Ahmed provides it 100%. As too does Paul Raci, who plays Joe, the deaf mentor to Ahmed's Ruben. Raci is fluent in American Sign Language, and when he talks of his character having been in the military as a younger man, the actor can back that up with real-life exploits, having served two tours in Vietnam. As I was watching the film I felt he embodied the character so well that he seemed real, so none of this came as a surprise when I read about it afterwards. He's excellent in the role and worthy of his BAFTA and Oscar nominations.

I liked Olivia Cooke as Lou, Ruben's girlfriend and the other member of their heavy metal duo Blackgammon. The development of her character in the script was interesting; so often in Hollywood films (but as can be the way in real life), you will have couples stand by each other through adversities no matter what, never leaving one another's side. But it's less common in films (yet can still also be the way in real life) to see characters prioritise their own mental or physical health, or deem that distance and separation from the other person (even if only intended as temporary) may actually help them in the long run. I was quite shocked initially by how abruptly Lou leaves for Europe, empathising with Ruben's disorientation and dismay, but ultimately found it quite a brave choice that worked well.

Finally, I couldn't write a review for this film without mentioning the sound design and film editing, which are both excellent and deserving of their Oscar wins. The former provides a soundscape that is jarring and terrifying at times, but which can also manifest the essence of peace and stillness. I watched the film with headphones on and found it an intense and absorbing experience.

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