Directed by Darius Marder, Sound of Metal explores the journey of Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a drummer in a metal band, as he gradually loses his hearing and, eventually, becomes completely deaf. Despite starting with incredibly loud scenes of the band comprising Ruben and Lou (Olivia Cooke), both professional and romantic partners, most of the movie takes place in quiet or completely silent environments.
The feature opens with a performance by Lou and Ruben's band Blackgammon, with Lou on guitar/vocals, and Ruben on the drums. In the first few scenes we get a glimpse into what life is like for this couple, constantly traveling whilst living in an RV, enjoying life. However, things quickly take a turn when Ruben begins to lose his hearing because of the constant loud noises he is subjected to as a metal drummer. Hoping that the hearing might come back, he continues playing in a few shows until he can’t stand it anymore and makes Lou aware of the situation. Together they try to overcome this difficulty as hearing is essential for their shows, but after a while it becomes obvious they can’t continue. This is a turning point in the film, as Lou and Ruben have to separate after being together for 4 years, coincidently the same time the latter has been sober. Ruben joins a backwoods community for the deaf and Lou goes back to Paris to live with her dad.
The work here by Riz Ahmed is outstanding; he brings to life this complex individual, as well as his struggles and his fears
From the moment Ruben meets Joe, the leader of the deaf community he starts living with (beautifully portrayed by Paul Raci, who in fact has ASL as his first language), there is a clear desire in him to leave as soon as possible and get cochlear implants in order to restore his hearing. Ruben is fixated on going back to his past way of living, he is unable to accept that this change looks to be permanent. Throughout his time in the camp, Joe tries to mentor and show him that being deaf is not a handicap, not something that needs to be ‘fixed’. Joe’s presence is so strong that most of the memorable scenes in the movie take place with him and Ruben, even at times making the audience question our own views on life. Without giving more of the plot away, Sound of Metal evolves into telling the down to earth story of how Ruben gets to know the deaf community in the rural camp as he learns sign language as well as teaching beginners how to play the drums.
The work here by Riz Ahmed is outstanding; he brings to life this complex individual, as well as his struggles and his fears. The most important part of this film was to have realistic roles that paid tribute to a community we do not see enough of in films and media. In my opinion, the three lead actors did an outstanding job at putting the story together in a way that impacts the audience.
One of the most amazing aspects of this movie is the incredible sound production. Once Ruben loses his hearing completely, the movie has extended sequences where we get into Ruben's head and hear what he hears, nothing. By doing so, we are able to empathise both with his isolation and his difficulty communicating with everyone else and adapting to his new way of living.
Sound of Metal is incredibly moving and inspiring, leaving the audience with the message of: being able to let go but also make the most of whatever drastic and unexpected occurrence comes your way. It is planned to be screened in cinemas from the 21st of May and it will be presented with open captions so deaf and hearing audiences can experience the film.