The Reel Review
When their fishing business is threatened, the only hearing member of a Massachusetts family finds herself torn between pursuing her singing talent or, as a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), staying to help her loved ones as their interpreter. This AppleTV+ film is based on the 2014 French film, La Famille Bélier (The Bélier Family).
Grab a couple of hankies, because this sweet, feel good story is going to give you all the feels. Emilia Jones (Locke & Key) gives a beautifully understated and authentic performance as Ruby, the CODA, with Oscar-winner Marlee Marlin (Children of a Lesser God), Troy Kotsur (The Number 23) and Daniel Durant all excellent as her deaf parents and deaf older brother. Eugenio Derbez (Dora and the Lost City of Gold), in a rare, subdued performance, is her music teacher.
Writer/director Siân Heder (Talullah) deftly captures the incredible stress Ruby feels trying to juggle her own passions with her family obligations. And the story, while examining the isolation and daunting challenges faced by deaf people in a hearing world, showcases lots of humor and charm. Heder’s use of several techniques to capture the deaf family members’ perspective of Ruby’s singing, from touching her throat to feel the vibrations, to scanning the faces of audience members to gauge their emotional reactions to Ruby’s performance, is extremely moving and beautiful. The finale, and its message of inclusion, is a winner. Is CODA predictable? Yes. Schmaltzy? A bit. Worth your time? Absolutely.
• Emilia Jones spent nine months learning American Sign Language, taking singing lessons and learning how to operate a fishing trawler to prepare for her role in CODA.
• When La Famille Bélier premiered in 2014 it was very controversial in the deaf community for casting hearing actors. In CODA, all of the deaf members of the Rossi family – Marlee Marlin, Troy Kotsur and Daniel Durant – are deaf in real life.
• Apple paid a record $25 million for CODA, which was filmed in the Massachusetts towns of Gloucester, Lockport and Boston. On set interpreters in CODA were all themselves CODAs.