Sound of Metal

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Sound of Metal
dir Darius Marder
scr Darius Marder, Abraham Marder
prd Bert Hamelinck, Sacha Ben Harroche, Kathy Benz, Bill Benz
with Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Mathieu Amalric, Lauren Ridloff, Domeico Toledo, Chelsea Lee, Shaheem Sanchez, Chris Perfetti, Bill Thorpe, Michael Tow, Rena Maliszewski
release US 20.Nov.20,
UK 29.Jan.21
19/US 2h01

ahmed cooke amalric

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Sound of Metal
Without giving in to sentimentality, filmmaker Darius Marder recounts an emotionally raw story in a way that's deeply involving. It's anchored by a riveting performance by Riz Ahmed as a young man grappling with the loss of his identity. So while the film is overlong and a little indulgent, its central story is powerfully moving, and the film also has a lot to say about an under-represented segment of society.
Recovering addict Ruben (Ahmed) is the drummer in a heavy metal band fronted by his girlfriend Lou (Cooke). But he's having trouble with his hearing, and soon becomes nearly deaf. Tests reveal that he has lost 70 percent of his hearing, and if he doesn't stay away from loud noise, he'll lose what's left. Lou of course insists that he stop ignoring the problem. So he moves into an isolated halfway house run by mentor Joe (Raci), who needs to teach Ruben how to be deaf. Basically this means going back to school.
Marder carefully builds a detailed soundscape of Ruben's life, from the initial deafening on-stage performance to subtle audio echoes in his daily routine. So the contrast to what he can't hear is that much more striking. Ruben and Lou have a lovely life on the road in their super-cool vintage motor home. But this new odyssey is disorienting for Ruben, placing him in an unknown world of silence. Meetings and meals with the other deaf residents are fascinating to watch, shot in ways that cleverly bring the situation to vivid life.

Ahmed gives a remarkably committed performance, revealing Ruben's wrenching emotions as he lashes out in frustration, struggling to accept that this is his new life, he has to become someone else. Watching him discover this reality is fascinating, beautifully played with moments of humour and some very high energy. Ahmed and Cooke create a lovely connection between Ruben and Lou that shifts dramatically as the narrative continues. And Raci provides a powerful presence as the no-nonsense Joe.

There are fascinating touches throughout the story, such as the ways Ruben keeps busy with other tasks to ignore the work he needs to do on himself. He eventually dives in to a new lifestyle, revealing an even more complex addict-like obsession. And in cleverly staged scenes, Marder helps the audience learn along with Ruben, reminding us that communication doesn't depend on hearing. And that our identity isn't in what we do, but who we are.

cert 15 themes, language 4.Dec.20

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall