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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz

Sound of Metal

Sound Of Metal is the most beautiful and the most important film of our time. It has the power to change everything if only we watch and listen closely.

See It Or Skip It: See It

Imagine finding out you were so wrong about someone who didn't deserve any of the assumptions you made about them. Now imagine passionately but humbly baking a pie full of love as an apology and imagine walking a mile to that person's home. Now imagine when that person answers the door, you hold out that pie with a sad smile that says “I was wrong”. There are countless people across the globe who cannot hear sound and for them, Sound Of Metal is that pie. Sound Of Metal is the small but miraculous start of an apology that's long overdue.

Sound Of Metal is about a young man named Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a rock drummer and recovering drug addict who while on tour with his girlfriend Lou (Thoroughbreds psychopathic Amanda, Olivia Cooke) loses his ability to hear sound entirely. Lou contacts Ruben’s sponsor who finds a shelter for recovering addicts who cannot hear sound. The shelter is run by Joe (An eruption of applause-worthy performance by Paul Raci) a recovering alcoholic who lost his ability to hear sound in the Vietnam War. Despite Ruben leaving upon finding out the shelter won't allow Lou to stay with him, Lou promises to wait for him and insists he needs to let the shelter help him.

Ruben goes back to the shelter and over time learns it's not just a shelter but an entire community and it's a community that changes his life forever. The sound design is spectacular because it gives audiences the chance to see and hear the world through the eyes and ears of those who can't hear sound.

Riz Ahmed is so beautiful, raw, and tender in his work here. There's so much pain and rage in his portrayal of someone losing the ability to hear sound but beneath that is his portrayal of fear. Fear of losing Lou, fear of what lies ahead, and fear of what that will look like for him. Physical performances are my favorite to review. I love to observe them and seek out what great actors do when they don't talk.

Olivia Cooke is as tremendous and extraordinary as Lou. She's had a very rough life and she has her own demons that she's battling. It would have been so much easier for her to let Ruben stay with her and get the operation and cochlear implants his doctor told him about before he was even ready for it. She chose not to do that because as traumatizing as leaving him at the parking lot before he returned to the shelter was for her, she understood that it was what he needed and what was best for him. She saved his life by making that crucial decision for both of them. She's a very brave woman.

Cooke perfectly captures Lou’s overwhelming state when Lou descends into a spiral of pain. The way her eyes look so still but so anguished when she looks at Ruben when he responds to what she writes down for him on paper or the way her arms are as still as stone but just moments away from shaking when she's holding Ruben’s phone talking to his sponsor. This is what makes a great actor when there's something there beyond an actor's lines. Silence often speaks louder than words and this is a film with a story and performances that backs that up.

The character of Lou was not diminished so that she would be defined as “the Girlfriend”. Lou is an important enough character on her own with her own story that's just as powerful. I would even go so far as to say Cooke deserved a nomination for her work here.

Paul Raci’s Joe is the film's most powerful asset. Raci himself was raised by parents who could not hear a sound so he's been fluent in sign language for most of his life and has such a deep appreciation for the story. Joe is such a miraculous human being and as an audience, I fell HEAD OVER HEELS, MADLY IN LOVE with him and his heart and kindness and just the way he sees people. To Ruben and everyone in the community, he serves as priest, oracle, father, brother, uncle, friend, mentor, and cheerleader. He teaches that those who cannot hear sound don't need fixing, that being “deaf” is not a handicap or a disability. It's not a burden to so many of them because it's normal for them. It's part of their identity.

Sound Of Metal portrays this community so masterfully and I totally understand and agree with Joe’s perspective. Being unable to hear sound absolutely comes with tremendous difficulties that can be so hard and even horrible at times. I cannot even begin to imagine not being able to hear sound. I'd lose so much that's so important to me if it ever happened but what Paul Raci and Sound Of Metal really taught me is that Joe is right.

Many believe that being “deaf” is not a handicap or a disability. I happen to agree with that belief. Someone who can't hear sound is entitled to certain accommodations in the workplace and many other areas in life but that doesn't mean it's a disability. An accommodation could be something as simple as a chef being allowed to hold a chopping knife in his or her left hand because he or she is left-handed. It could be a customer getting nuts off their garden salad because they are allergic. Being left-handed or allergic to nuts are not disabilities. They are not handicaps. Society HAS to get it into their heads that needing reasonable accommodations from time to time does not automatically translate to disability.

You may have noticed that the word “deaf” in this review has always been written as a quote and I use the term “unable to hear the sound”. That's absolutely intentional. After watching Sound Of Metal, I don't like the word “deaf”. It disgusts me as a matter of fact. Being “deaf” means you can't hear at all. Most of the people in Sound Of Metal can't hear sound but does that mean they can't hear at all? I think not.

I think Sound Of Metal portrays the community who can't hear a sound as individuals who because the sound is blocked out completely, they’re able to see, feel and hear the world in ways that those of us who can hear sound can't. In a very unique way, they're more mature, intelligent, compassionate, and kind than those of us who can hear sound. They're so much smarter and so much more powerful than the stereotypes society has been portraying them as for centuries.

I just know that wicked, ignorant bigots who want everyone to be the same in every way will justify their discomfort towards this film by saying it's glamorizing those who can't hear sound. Sound Of Metal DOESN’T does that. What it does is make those who can't hear sound feel wonderful about themselves and show those who can hear sound why those people are beautiful.

Again, I understand that being unable to hear the sound has so much difficulty that I just can't comprehend but those who learn to live with it have gifts only they understand. Those who can hear sound can never understand it but it's about time they started appreciating it. Those who can't don't want pity. Don't focus on what so many people ignorantly think makes them weak. Focus on what makes them strong and what makes them rise and soar like Phoenix's. THAT is exactly what Sound Of Metal does.

A film like this has NEVER EVER been made before. There's NOTHING to compare it to. Not even Children Of A Lesser God came even close. Those who can't hear the sound aren't children of a lesser God. They're children of whatever or whoever it is that caused us all to be on this earth that is continuously sinking into ruin. It won't be who we all thought it would be who will save us if we can be saved. It'll be the unseen, the unheard, the unappreciated. The person no one thought was capable of greatness.

Sound Of Metal is the BEST film of the year. It's only the beginning of the 2020s but Sound Of Metal may very well be the best film of this DECADE. I can't remember the last time I got this worked up in excitement over a film. I honestly think Sound Of Metal may be the most important and relevant film any of us could watch at this time. Sound Of Metal is a beautiful film about beautiful people who do beautiful things.

I'll conclude by describing what particularly resonated with me. There's a scene at the end where the implants Ruben managed to get make his limited ability to hear the sound very uncomfortable and he takes them out and he hears complete and utter silence. In this scene, Ahmed is portraying someone who will no longer be shackled to the verbal hatred and nonsense our world has become. He is no longer a prisoner. He is calm. He is unique. He is special. He is powerful. He is immortal. He is beautiful.

He is free.

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