"Sound Of Metal" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Riz Ahmed is absolutely amazing in Darius Marder's directorial debut, "Sound Of Metal".
We follow Ruben (Ahmed), who is a heavy metal drummer who is in the same band as his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). Only minutes into the film we discover that Ruben's hearing is deteriorating, and is getting worse every minute. When he goes to visit a doctor, he learns that he has lost around 80-90% of his hearing, and he will lose the rest quickly as well. Ruben acts cool and collected when hearing the news. He'll just get the Cochlear surgery and everything will be fine. He'll get back to playing with the band very soon.
However, this is not the case. His hearing continues to get worse and worse, causing Ruben to go on a downward spiral. We see a scene (not much later after the doctor appointment) where Ruben destroys almost everything in his RV in a fit of rage. Not only is his hearing being affected continuously, his mental health is taking a beating as well.
Lou is extremely worried for Ruben and his hearing, but there's a much bigger problem at hand - Ruben is a recovering addict. She's afraid Ruben will turn back to hard drugs, such as heroin, during this difficult time.
She turns to a deaf community ran by a deaf man named Joe (Paul Raci), who lost his hearing fighting the war in Vietnam. He informs Ruben early on that this is a center to teach him how to adjust to his new conditions, not fix him. Ruben has a hard time at first in the community before deciding to start participating with his new deaf friends. He observes the ASL that the deaf community uses, and learns to adopt the language as well. He teaches the kids how to play drums. It seems as if Ruben has finally found peace after his hearing loss.
Riz Ahmed provokes both sympathy and empathy for his character by his acting choices throughout the film. Ahmed learned how to play drums and ASL just for this film alone. He also used auditory blockers to be able to feel how a deaf person would. We are so engulfed by Ahmed's acting performance that whenever anything bad happens to him, we feel his pain as well. This is the best role Ahmed has given so far, and has secured him a Best Actor nomination at the Academy Awards later this year. He has made history by being the first Muslim actor to be nominated for a lead role.
The sound design for the film is breathtaking. Not only do we hear the film as we would normally hear it, we also hear it from Ruben's point of view. We hear the very quiet booms of the drums. We can barely hear the doctor's voice when Ruben goes for the sound test early on in the film. When Ruben gets the cochlear implants, we can hear the indecipherable sounds that he hears when doing simple tasks, such as crossing the street.
This is Marder's first film, with an exception of a documentary in 2008. From watching this film, you couldn't tell that he was a first time director based on the sophistication and impressive direction behind the scenes.
The deaf community has received a lot of representation in mainstream Hollywood films the past couple of years. Most of the deaf characters in the film are played by people from the deaf community. From horror films such as "The Quiet Place" to contemporary films like this one, we see the influence that the culture has on filmmakers. Not only do we take interest in Ahmed's character, we also take interest in the predominantly ASL community around him.
This film is a showcase of how it's okay to accept changes in your life and how to adapt. Ahmed does a wonderful job of this, and inspires other people in the same situation to do the same.