During a series of adrenaline-fueled one-night gigs, itinerant punk-metal drummer Ruben (Riz Ahmed) begins to experience intermittent hearing loss. When a specialist tells him his condition will rapidly worsen, he thinks his music career — and with it his life — is over. His bandmate and girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) checks the recovering heroin addict into a secluded sober house for the deaf in hopes it will prevent a relapse and help him learn to adapt to his new situation. But after being welcomed into a community that accepts him just as he is, Ruben has to choose between his equilibrium and the drive to reclaim the life he once knew. Utilizing startling, innovative sound design techniques, director Darius Marder takes audiences inside Ruben’s experience to vividly recreate his journey into a rarely examined world.
Darius Marder’s second directorial effort has been on mine and many others’ radar for quite a while now. The film received acclaim from critics at the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2019 and since then, fans of Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke have been highly anticipating seeing the two actors together on-screen. Sound of Metal released on Amazon Prime in the United States back in December and is now releasing on the same streaming service here in the UK on April 12th. Has the movie delivered after its lengthy wait? Read on to find out.
The movie follows Ruben (Riz Ahmed – Four Lions, Mogul Mowgli), a heavy-metal drummer who has been living in the moment for the past four years. Suddenly, while on tour with his lead-singer/girlfriend, Lou (Olivia Cooke – Ready Player One, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Ruben realises that his hearing is deteriorating rapidly. As this sudden hearing loss turns his world upside down, Ruben reluctantly accepts to join a small deaf community overseen by Joe (Paul Raci – Baskets, Goliath), a compassionate Vietnam War veteran. Now, Ruben needs to find some solid ground, understand that being deaf is not a handicap or isn’t something to fix.
Not many movies are like Riz Ahmed’s latest movie. The film is unique, moving and extremely emotional. We rarely see films nowadays shine a light on the deaf community but Sound of Metal puts the hard-of-hearing group front and centre which gives this film a much more personal feel. This film is a love letter to people who are deaf and tells people that there are others who are part of this community.
Next, Riz Ahmed carries this entire film on his shoulders. The arc his character goes on during the movie’s two hour runtime is emotional, powerful and will connect with a lot of people. Ahmed’s character, Ruben, is a great protagonist for a story like this because he is a heavy-metal drummer and hearing is part of his profession. So, when his hearing suddenly starts to deteriorate rapidly, Ahmed portrays it in a way that really is heartbreaking.
Olivia Cooke is also fantastic as Ruben’s girlfriend, Lou. As Ruben goes through the transition of becoming deaf, she must come to grips with what that will mean for their relationship and their future on tour. Her perspective on the
who scenario that Ruben is in, gives a different look to the whole story and while the movie does revolve around Ahmed’s character, the relationship between the two characters is perfect. Both actors have remarkable chemistry with each other and their relationship feels real and not robotic. You feel the emotion flowing from each performance, especially during the final thirty minutes.
The sound design is also perfect. The movie immerses you into Ruben’s head and on many occasions you hear what Ruben hears which is little to nothing. The final scene of Sound of Metal perfectly uses the sound to its advantage, creating very personal moments which resonated with me as a viewer.
However, I do think that the movie does drag during the middle of the film. Certain sequences felt like they were dragged out needlessly and could have easily been edited down. Some scenes linger on specific shots for a little too long and I feel if they were trimmed down here and there then the pacing of the film would have been perfect!
The film does take its time to get going too; at first, I wasn’t hooked and I did not really get into the film until roughly thirty minutes in. Sound of Metal does take its time to establish the characters and relationships in a way that didn’t truly sell me on the film until the movie switched gears and started to put its story at the forefront.
With that being said, Sound of Metal is a triumph; the movie displays the deaf community in a way we have never seen in a film to date. Riz Ahmed is unrecognizable as Ruben by delivering a powerhouse performance that we have never seen from the actor before. Olivia Cooke and Paul Raci are both great as supporting players on Ruben’s journey and truly add an emotional attachment to his character. The sound is used to perfection to display what Ruben hears and really helped immerse me as a viewer into the film. Truly deserving of all the awards it has been receiving recently and while it is a tad long, I cannot wait to see what Darius Marder directs next.
Amazon Studios and Vertigo Releasing’s Sound of Metal will release on Amazon Prime on April 12th and in cinemas across the UK from May 17th
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