Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Sound of Metal

Riz Ahmed stars as one-half of a heavy metal band whose life is turned upside down when the drummer starts to lose his hearing. A recovering heroin addict, Ruben (Ahmed) agrees to go to an insular community for deaf recovering addicts to appease girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) while still refusing to come to terms with what has happened to him.

The film from co-writer/director Darius Marder is one on personal struggle, loss, acceptance, and transformation as Ruben struggles both in finding a new life and his refusal to let go of what he had prior to his hearing loss. Even discounting the imparement, Ruben practices selective hearing in what doctors and others tell him both about the state of his hearing and about the limited help he might receive from expensive cochlear implants.

Although much of it takes place with a couple of montages, we do witness Ruben's role from outsider to productive member of the deaf community over the course of the film. But despite the help Joe (Paul Raci) and others give to Ruben, the drummer can't let go of returning to life on the road with Lou.

Riz Ahmed, who makes Ruben's frustration palpable, is the stand-out of the film as is the sound design and editing used to capture the different levels of Ruben's hearing by allowing audiences to hear the outside world slipping away. The two together help craft a deeply personal film by putting us in Ruben's head as the ground beneath him continues to shift. Ahmed has a challenge early on, as Ruben isn't the easiest character to root for initially, even as you feel for his struggle. However, this arguably makes the film's final scenes more effective as the character finally begins to look at the world in new ways.

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