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Film Review: Sound of Metal (2021)

IMDb Link: Sound of Metal (2019)
Director: Darius Marder
Writers: Darius Marder, Abraham Marder, Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Paul Raci, Olivia Cooke

Synopsis: A heavy-metal drummer’s life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing.

Firstly, I want to thank the director and writer Darius Marder for simply telling this story. Over the past few years, there has slowly been representation for the deaf community coming to light, and with directors making sure they tell their stories authentically and with real information backing it up. This is no exception, as Sound of Metal really grounds itself in our reality and staying true to the experiences of the community – going so far as to making the subtitles a part of the film and not just optional, having it so that the film is accessible to those who will relate most to this story.

It is not only that choice though that stands out, but the casting choice of Paul Raci as Joe, someone who was late-deafened and runs a shelter for deaf recovering addicts. Whilst Raci isn’t deaf himself, he is the child of deaf parents, meaning that he certainly knows what it is like to support people who are deaf. He created a space not only behind the scenes but on camera that people could go to for support, to help learn sign language and to help tell this story authentically, and I think it is that passion that people see come through in his performance and why his role, in particular, has been loved.

However, this is a film that is filled to the top with incredible performances, particularly from lead Riz Ahmed. This has been a stellar year for the actor but his role as Ruben, a rock star who has to come to terms with losing his hearing, is heartbreaking to watch on the screen. His character feels real as his struggles aren’t glamourised or glossed over, instead we feel the pain that he is going through. The same can be said for his co-star Olivia Cooke, who plays Lou – his bandmate who has to see Ruben go through this experience first hand. It feels like nobody is talking about Cooke, but it is hard not to be emotionally touched when it comes to the narrative of her character and how she plays the role.

If there is one thing you must do when preparing to watch this film, it is to watch it with the best speaker system that you can. The sound design of this film is some of the strongest I have heard in the past decade, and not just on the mixing. The purposeful choices that the sound team make to reflect what Ruben is hearing throughout, as well as what he doesn’t hear and how his ears react to noise at certain moments in his life, is so wonderfully done and it is no wonder that it has been sweeping the sound categories this award season.

This is not a film that you would initially notice the technical elements on, but I was incredibly impressed by the craft of the film itself. The editing is precise, managing to balance a strange mix of tones from the heavy metal sequences to the softer scenes at the shelter. The production design comes to life through the narrative of the journey taken in the film, both physically and emotionally, and it is easy to buy the physical journey through the places that we explore. Even the costume and makeup design help give a distinctive look to our leading characters, making their roles as rock stars feel believable alongside the strong songs they perform right from the opening credits.

I am so glad that this is a film that managed to make a big impact this award season, because it is usually the film that would get left off for the big studio hits. To see Paul Raci get honoured for the authenticity of his role, to see a story of this nature get a Screenplay nomination in such a packed year, and to see this film compete for the Best Picture race is incredibly exciting to me as I really did fall in love with this story. If you have not had the chance to check this one out yet, I highly encourage you to do so.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Sound of Metal is available to watch on Amazon Prime from April 12th.

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