Sound of Metal – Movie Review
Rating: A- (Great)
Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Pacific Northwest Pictures
There’s something immediately appealing about movies that take advantage of the audio component of filmmaking. Sound mixing is often underappreciated, but it’s incredibly vital to many films. With Sound of Metal, director/co-writer Darius Marder puts us in the shoes of someone who is starting to turn deaf and occasionally gives us an idea of what his world now sounds like. It’s a brilliant device that allows for a new perspective. However, the film is also smart to not treat deafness as an abnormality and something scary. We are taken on a journey with this drummer and it shows matter-of-factly how he adapts to the situation he finds himself in.
Marder takes an understated approach to his direction and it works as we explore Ruben and how he attempts to cope with becoming deaf. It even takes a little while for the main part of the plot to occur, as we mostly follow him and his girlfriend as they tour their heavy metal band in a RV. The conversations they have with one another are engaging and the chemistry between Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke works. The scenes during their concerts have the needed intensity, while also showing us precisely why Ruben becomes deaf. We also have an understanding of his personality and why he would irresponsibly play drums in a loud concert without earplugs.
When Ruben is taken to a community to adjust to his new state, it’s not treated as a scary thing. We see the kindness of the people there and that’s always refreshing to see in any film. Sound of Metal becomes about good people trying to help another good person and how that does positively change his attitude. Marder made the smart decision to only cast deaf people, adding an authenticity to the scenes in the community. Ruben’s development is well written and he shares some wonderful scenes with Joe, the head of the camp, and a teacher named Diane. What we see are people like any other with interests and talents and a willingness to accept Ruben as part of their community.
The use of sound in the film is excellently done and Marder uses it to put us in Ruben’s head space. The first time he goes deaf, it’s a sudden moment and Ahmed plays his immediate reaction perfectly. The way the film jumps back and forth between what Ruben hears and what the world otherwise sounds like is handled with ease and these also serve important story functions. The scenes where everything goes silent have the needed impact and also work well in emphasizing one of the film’s themes. By portraying how deaf people experience the world, Sound of Metal removes the stigma attached to deafness as being a scary thing to be ashamed of.
The premise of Sound of Metal might make one expect something intense and how being deaf can seriously affect a person. Thankfully, the filmmakers take a different approach by showing the empathy of the deaf community. It’s a very positive depiction that shows how someone can adapt and learn, especially with the genuine help of others. There is clearly an enormous respect for the deaf and that’s shown via all of the interactions Ruben has with them. The use of sound mixing also works in the movie’s favour and in putting us in the main character’s mindset. It’s an effective film that works exceptionally well as a character piece and in portraying the deaf in a positive light.