Sound of Metal
Drummer Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed) lives and works with his girlfriend, Lou (Olivia Cooke), in a two-piece punk-metal band. Their life is spent driving between various venues in their RV (which also functions as a recording studio) to play small – but loud – gigs. It’s after one of these shows that the musician begins to lose his hearing, which causes his entire lifestyle and identity to collapse. Without many choices, he joins a Deaf community for recovering addicts to come to terms with this unexpected, life-changing situation. However, despite this new support network, Ruben yearns to scrape enough money together for expensive surgery to get his hearing back so that he might get his life to return to the way it was.
In Sound of Metal – the directorial debut from Darius Marder (who also co-wrote the screenplay) – the filmmaker delivers a profoundly personal and authentic character study that immerses viewers headfirst into its Deaf community. Leading the charge is Ahmed (who has received an Oscar and BAFTA nomination for this role) in his spectacular leading performance. Having to learn both drums and ASL for the role, the star fully dedicates to portraying this character as authentically as possible. Especially to non-deaf viewers, Ahmed is the window into this world; and it’s through his emotionally raw presence that audiences can go on this intimate journey alongside him.
The sound design is just as crucial to creating the Deaf experience. A large portion of the point-of-audition is framed from Ruben’s perspective, which establishes how he perceives the sounds around him. His struggle to understand what Lou is saying to him is frustrating because it can’t be heard. Likewise, the stark silence when he’s first surrounded by people signing is uncomfortable because (unless you understand ASL) you, too, are unable to communicate with these people. In a brilliant creative strike, subtitles are only introduced when Ruben can sign. (The movie is likewise intended to be presented in open captions, however this feature wasn’t there on Amazon). Everything about the sound is crafted to present viewers with as realistic a representation as possible, which extends to including a mostly deaf cast.
While the plot stumbles with an unevenly paced final act, Sound of Metal is nevertheless an astoundingly affective and emotionally resonating character piece that shines an inspirational light on the Deaf community.
Sound of Metal is released on Amazon Prime Video on 12th April 2021.
Watch the trailer for Sound of Metal here: