The Reel Review
When Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a recovering heroin addict and drummer of a metal band, suddenly and rapidly starts losing his hearing, his world is turned upside down. Fearing he may relapse into the throes of drug addiction, his quick-thinking girlfriend (Olivia Cooke) checks him into a rehab facility for the deaf, hoping it also will help him cope with his new life, in this drama.
Riz Ahmed (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and Paul Raci, as head of the deaf rehab facility, both give impressively raw, emotional performances, illustrating the major life changes associated with losing one’s hearing. And director Darius Marder’s use of various audio techniques in the film – the distortion, the muffles – effectively illustrates for the viewer what it is like to experience both hearing loss as well as the challenges of expensive cochlear implants.
But the story itself, about having the courage to lean into those major life changes, falls a bit short, dragging at a snail’s pace. Marder, with his laser focus on simulating hearing loss, misses an opportunity to make his main character and story as compelling and relatable as he potentially could have.
• Riz Ahmed learned American Sign Language for this film, which also cast as many deaf actors and crew members as possible.
• As a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), Paul Raci is a prominent figure in the deaf community. His band, Hands of Doom, performs in ASL and he has worked as an ASL interpreter in the Los Angeles Superior Court system for 25 years.
• Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke were signed to star in Sound of Metal after Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl) and Dakota Johnson backed out of the project.