Don't try adjusting your set...when you play "Sound of Metal" on streaming, the closed-captioning option is locked to the "on" position. That's just one of the many ways this film will put you in the skin of a person living in the Deaf Community. With a brave, powerful performance by Riz Ahmed, the use of silence in "Sound of Metal" (available on Amazon Prime on 12/4) has never been quite so clear, or as powerfully portrayed.
Ruben (Riz Ahmed) and his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) spend their days on the road, rockin' out in-between tour stops. They're far from famous, playing mostly bars or joints where their thrasher-style of music is welcome. Ruben is the band's drummer, but after one powerful performance, something just didn't feel right. What started as a ringing in his ears turned in to something much worse, and after checking in with a doctor, Ruben learns that his hearing is rapidly deteriorating.
Lou and Ruben share a special bond, but even she can't deal with his explosive temper. Ruben, an addict who has been clean for nearly four years, needs help with his hearing, just as he needed help with his heroin addiction. He enters a special facility that very much feels like an NA Meeting for deaf people, and there he meets the head of the chapter, Joe (Paul Raci), who is there to lead Ruben to his path forward.
From a story by Derek Cianfrance ("Blue Valentine," "The Place Beyond the Pines") and written/directed by first-time filmmaker, Darius Marder, "Sound of Metal" has a raw, lived-in feel to it. Marder proves himself as a master of patience...a virtue not found in many modern films, let alone by newbie directors. He lets scenes breathe, and the sound mixing/editing will all most certainly land the film some award laurels. Through Ruben, he makes the audience experience hearing loss, and the lonely isolation it creates. The effect is - no pun intended - deafening.
But this is not a story about loss...it is, in fact, a story about finding peace. Ruben's journey is clearly laid-out, from the anger and fear that initially sets in, all the way through acceptance. Ruben must make the most of this, his only life. He wasn't exactly a happy, peaceful individual before his hearing loss, so there is a complicated web of emotions that need unraveling deep within his psyche, before healing can begin. And as Joe tells him, those in the Deaf Community do not look at deafness as some kind of crutch or ailment...but as an attribute.
Riz Ahmed - who shined in the HBO limited-series, "The Night Of" - gives a vulnerable and heart-breaking performance. But most importantly, his character and his experiences in this movie are fully believable. There isn't a phony note in the entirety of "Sound of Metal," making it one of the most lyrical, gripping and best films of 2020.
Genre: Drama, Music.
Run Time: 2 hours 10 minutes.
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Lauren Ridloff.
Story by Derek Cianfrance.
Co-Written and Directed by Darius Marder (feature-film debut).
"Sound of Metal" is available on Friday, November 20th, 2020.
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