By: Collin Frazier
Well-designed sound, a rockin’ lead role, and a look into the Deaf community
With the 93rd Academy Awards right around the corner, different films have the chance to claim the ultimate prize: Best Picture. Among those include “Sound of Metal”, streaming now on Prime Video. While the title may make you think that this is dedicated to music, you would be somewhat incorrect. Sound of Metal follows the story of Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed), a drummer for his 2-person band consisting of him and his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). After slowly beginning to lose his hearing, Ruben must accept his circumstances and become a member of the Deaf community. With very little dialogue spoken, having most of it communicated through sign language, this film still manages to speak volumes – as always, some spoilers lie below.
What really makes this film memorable is the dedication the film placed on sound design. Early on in the film when Ruben begins to lose his hearing, the film decides to make the viewer feel Ruben’s pain by giving the audience fuzzy sound and unintelligible dialogue towards Ruben.
Ruben eventually receives cochlear implants to restore his hearing towards the end of the film. Rather than making sounds crystal clear for him, words sounded like they were coming out of staticky radio. I really appreciated this touch because it made the viewer understand how frustrating, and/or uncomfortable it can be for someone with hearing issues. The Academy certainly made the right choice giving the Best Sound nod to this film.
This film was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay and I think this is right on the nose. Never in my life have I seen a film that gives a look into the deaf community (I am sure there are some out there, just none that I have ever seen personally). It really showed that despite deaf people not having the ability to hear, they can confide and learn from each other. It showed that being deaf does not necessarily make one handicapped.
Lastly, this film cannot be reviewed without discussing the Best Actor nominated performance by Riz Ahmed. Ahmed put a lot of emotion into Ruben. We saw Ahmed portray frustration, suicidal thoughts, adaptation, and finally, redemption with nuance. All his character wanted was to live a somewhat normal life as a drummer with his girlfriend and did whatever he could to get to that point. Oddly enough, once he did reach some kind of normalcy, he realized he could never go back to that, and he fully accepted his life as a deaf person. I feel this would not have been possible without Ahmed’s range as an actor.
My only complaint with this film, and it’s not so much at the movie itself, but at the Academy, is that Paul Raci did not receive a Best Supporting Actor. Granted, Daniel Kaluuya is most likely going to win that for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” but I still think Raci deserved the nod as his character Joe. Joe truly understood where Ruben was coming from as someone who also lost their hearing. He acted like a father to Ruben and wanted him to embrace the new life he has. I guess the Academy did not see it my way, though.
Overall, this film does not do anything over the top to be memorable, but rather, it takes a chance with a community that is not well depicted in film and does a great job at that. The sound throws you in Ruben’s shoes and the portrayal of the deaf community really makes you appreciate being surrounded by people that relate to you. And finally, the performances by Ahmed and Raci were incredible. My final rating for “Sound of Metal” is a 94/100.
Featured photo courtesy of Amazon Prime.