SOUND OF METAL is hands down the most anxiety-inducing, yet one of the most rewarding, films I’ve watched in 2020.
Here’s the synopsis: During a series of adrenaline-fueled one-night gigs, itinerant punk-metal drummer Ruben (Riz Ahmed) begins to experience intermittent hearing loss. When a specialist tells him his condition will rapidly worsen, he thinks his music career — and with it his life — is over. His bandmate and girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) checks the recovering heroin addict into a secluded sober house for the deaf in hopes it will prevent a relapse and help him learn to adapt to his new situation. But after being welcomed into a community that accepts him just as he is, Ruben has to choose between his equilibrium and the drive to reclaim the life he once knew. Utilizing startling, innovative sound design techniques, writer/director Darius Marder takes audiences inside Ruben’s experience to vividly recreate his journey into a rarely examined world.
Marder successfully brings the audience into a first-hand experience with Ruben and his variety of emotions and experiences denying, confronting, and accepting himself as Deaf.
I must be honest, for much of the first two acts of the film, I hadn’t been that angry at a fictional character since Adam Sandler’s Howard Ratner in 2019’s Uncut Gems. Ruben’s dismissiveness of his circumstances in the beginning is almost unbearable to witness.
Yet Marder’s ability to finesse empathy for the character and display the initial loneliness of his condition, especially when he interacts with the Deaf community for the first time, is both clever and penetrating.
The film’s inclusivity with using Deaf and hard of hearing actors in the cast shouldn’t go without mention, and highlights the importance of representation in film.
And Riz Ahmed, who learned American Sign Language (ASL) and to play drums for the role, gives a harrowing and triumphant performance as Ruben that is one of the 2020’s finest.
“Sound of Metal” is a gripping story that incites the audience quickly and doesn’t let up until its redemptive ending. I rate it 4 out of 5 on the MMTrometer.
SOUND OF METAL is streaming now on Amazon Prime.
Until next thought, Thomasena