“Sound of Metal”- Movie Review

I often find that trying to find a movie to watch on a streaming service is like having a fridge full of food and not knowing what you’re in the mood to eat. You know you’ll eventually have to settle with somthing, and more likely than not, that something will probably be junk food, because junk may not be great, but it’s familiar. We all have a tendency to settle with what’s familiar, but if you keep with it too much, you risk glossing over a hidden gem.

Take Sound of Metal, for example. Sound of Metal is a drama directed and co-written by Darius Marder and stars Riz Ahmed as Ruben, a former heroin addict and drummer of a metal band who realizes he’s losing his hearing. Ruben struggles to come to terms with his sudden yet quickly worsening condition. Just as he feels like his life has sunken to an irreversible rut, a glimmer of hope arrives in the form of a support community for deaf recovering addicts. Despite his stubborn reluctance at first, Ruben, with the encouragement from his girlfriend/bandmate, Lou (Olivia Cooke), chooses to stay, hoping the experience will help him cope with this newfound ailment.

I first became aware of this film early last year, when I read an Indiewire article about the films that were expected to debut at TIFF. Sound of Metal was included in that list, and the only thing written about it was that it was about a drummer who loses his hearing. That’s it. Since then, I haven’t seen many reviews on it, nor have I heard anything through word-of-mouth. So I forgot about it for a while. Then one Sunday afternoon, I stumbled upon it while searching through Prime. I recognized the title, so I decided to give it a chance and pressy play.

Going in, I had an idea where the film’s story would go, but I didn’t expect the manner in which the story was told. The film has an immersive quality. Darius Marder and company made a concentrated effort to put you in the main character’s shoes, and have you experience what he’s going through. They take full advantage of the sound design. They utilize a handful of editing techniques- mutes, distortion, sound in-and-out frequencies- to simulate Ruben’s hearing loss. it’s a clever way to draw you further into the story and create a more visceral experience.

Everything else about the movie is pretty good as well. The acting from Riz Ahmed and Olivia Coleman is solid. Both deliver great performances, and the two of them have palpable chemistry. Not much is explicitly revealed about their backgrounds, but still, mainly through their performances, you can sense the kind of history they’ve shared. Also good is Paul Raci as the founder of the deaf rehab facility Ruben attends. Interestingly, Raci and most of the supporting characters in the film are part of the deaf community. Raci himself isn’t deaf, but is the child of deaf parents and is a musician in a band that performs in ASL (American Sign Language). And I’m pretty sure that the other deaf characters are played by deaf actors, which is pretty cool. The inclusion of the actual community in film adds a layer of authenticity that helps boost the overall message.

In the end, Sound of Metal is an unexpectedly effective watch. It’s a film that is built as an experience, as a peek inside a particular situation that many people have lived but we don’t see portrayed much in movies. The plot is very grounded, very minimalistic, and the acting, from the stars, to the supporting cast, to the extra, is comfortably exceptional. The next time you find yourself scrolling through Amazon and come across this title, give it a watch. It’ll be well worth your time.

Cosmic Grade- 4/5 Stars

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