Sound of Metal (Review)
Darius Marder's "Sound of Metal" tells the tale of a metal band's drummer, Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed), who, because of his profession loses his hearing. This is a "confronting life's unsuspecting hardships" story that works because Mr. Marder only hints at the details of Ruben's life. The underlying experiences of his past reflect Mr. Ahmed's choices for his character that leaves the viewer without context to guess what's next in Ruben's journey. It is refreshing to sit back and let the film take us on Ruben's journey without seeing where its going.
With only hints of backstory we can experience Ruben's alarm at this sudden disruption on a pure level. This places the burden of the story's success on the shoulders of Mr. Ahmed and he delivers. Using all of the emotions from which such an event would rain down on an individual, Mr. Ahmed puts us under his wing where we have a front row observation booth for his character. And from his arsenal, Mr. Ahmed refuses to pick up the heavy weapons of bombast or over-exerting to relay his character's feelings. Instead he uses subtly which exposes Ruben's sensitivity making him all the more appealing.
The story begins as Ruben and his girlfriend, Lou (Olivia Cooke), the lead singer of their band, are in the middle of touring when Ruben's hearing begins to fail. The tour is cancelled and Lou returns home when Ruben checks himself into a program which he hopes will solve his problem. There he interacts with the other deaf students and learns sign language. This group is guided by the head of the program Joe (Paul Raci) - an up beat no nonsense persona who teaches Ruben to understand that the lack of hearing shouldn't be considered the problem. Ruben needs to learn how to live with his fate but also work on who he is as a person while attempting to clean up his demons.
Mr. Raci received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for his tough but tender portrayal of a man who teaches the deaf how to integrate into society. It's one of those natural performances (Anthony Hopkins "Remains of the Day", Gene Hackman "Mississippi Burning") that convinces the viewer that you're actually observing a day in the life of these people and everything Mr. Raci says is believable. Its a the real pleasure of this film to watch Mr. Raci and Mr. Ahmed work off each other. Its to Mr. Marder's credit that he's able to stage their scenes that get the emotional juices flowing elevating the movie to another level.
Mr. Marder successfully combines Ruben's loss of hearing with sound effects that help the viewer get a sense of what Ruben is going through. Whether it's the sudden loss of sound or his new implants connecting Ruben to a new type of sound, like a radio reception, or most effectively, silence, we have an understanding of the rocky road Ruben has to travel. It's also a way to get the audience involved in a memorable cinematic experience. We enter a strange new world along with Ruben and discover even implants may not be the answer as its unreliability increases instead of subsides his frustration.
This is a wonderful movie with some great performances and unexpected turns. Mr. Marder has crafted a cinematic experience that leaves us knowing that the world has enough bounty in it that even the loss of one of our senses cannot deter the rest of its glory.