With its clever use of sound to give us a sensational visceral experience and Riz Ahmed’s tour de force performance, Sound of Metal heightened my empathy for the deaf community, while leaving me in awe simultaneously. This is a film that will stay with me for a long time.
The plot of this film involves the drummer of the heavy-metal duo Blacksmith Ruben as he begins to lose his hearing permanently. As Ruben’s hearing slowly deteriorates, his girlfriend convinces him to join a deaf community to get some help adjusting and coping with going deaf.
Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke : an amazing pair
When the film begins, we see a bleach blonde haired Riz Ahmed, who plays Ruben, bang his drums as his girlfriend Lou, played by Olivia Cooke serenades the crowd with her crass vocals, which leads to Ahmed’s character shredding the drums like someone who has been playing for many years. This convinced me that Riz Ahmed was a serious drummer. However, it turns out Riz Ahmed had no prior experience with the drums and learned how to play them in 7 months. On top of that, he learned sign language at the same time. This only ads to his truly understated and emotional performance. I am mentioning this because from the moment I saw Riz, I just couldn’t look away. His raw and quiet acting gave me goosebumps and I could almost feel everything that his character goes through for the entire film.
Another really clever thing this film did was its use of sound. The sound design of Sound of Metal broke my heart the most because it serves as a window into exactly what Ruben and many others go through as their hearing slowly deteriorates. This is especially apparent when Ruben first loses his hearing as he helps his crew prepare the merch table at their next gig. From that point on, we are treated to muffled voices as Ruben struggles to hear the drums, no matter how hard he hits them. In another horrifically sad scene, we see a doctor testing Ruben’s hearing and all we hear is muffled noises like someone trying to speak to him underwater. I was blown away, to say the very least, and this was an excellent way to make Ruben’s struggle, become ours as well.
I also want to mention Paul Raci who plays Joe, the person who runs the deaf community that Ruben joins. He is sensational and should definitely be in talks for supporting actor at the Oscars. Olivia Cooke is wonderful as Lou and she has come a long way from when I watched her on Bates Motel.
Captivated by Ruben’s journey
The film takes its time to progress through the story of Ruben’s new normal, where we watch him struggle to cope with his new reality. I never checked how long was left in the film because I became fascinated by all of Ruben’s new friends/people he lived with in rehab for the hearing impaired and how he appeared to find a silver lining to his unfortunate circumstance. The film’s story is mainly a frustrating character study about how the main character sees himself as broken and would do anything to fix what he lost. He believes that if he does this, everything will go back to normal. Watching Ruben take one step forward and 3 steps back felt incredibly realistic and frustrating simultaneously. The story left me wanting more after the screen went dark, because despite feeling very satisfied with the ending, I couldn’t help but wonder about everyone Ruben had met along the way and what became of them.
However, this is Ruben’s story and I want to applaud the filmmakers for making this work of fiction feel like a true story. I am also truly impressed with how I was able to relate to what I believe is the movie’s main message; Whenever your circumstances change, good or bad, it’s important to adapt and find your silver lining. Also, nobody is broken, regardless of your situation. That truly hit close to home for me.
The Sound of Metal submerges us into a world we would normally never understand unless we lived it ourselves and never lets us come up for air. It’s pace is purposely slow to allow us to soak up everything Ruben goes through and experience it through him. I am proud to have watched this film and I hope it propels everyone forward. I enjoyed every minute of this film.
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