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Sound of Metal – A Masterful Character Study

Sound of Metal – A Masterful Character Study

For our review of Sound of Metal from TIFF 2019, click here.

Of course with the passing of time comes an added perspective. Sound of Metal dazzled upon its debut and the world has since caught on to the film’s masterful use of sound (and the lack of it) as a storytelling device for dramatic effect and to create a unique sense of immersion while an extraordinary lead performance from Riz Ahmed acts as the audience’s guide through a truly heartbreaking redemption story. The film goes about this with an empathetic touch and one that is even more effective the second time around. While subtitles and caption will certainly not be for everyone, this film should be an exception as it helps to create a well-rounded portrayal of this story and if possible should be one viewed with headphones as it will help to further reinforce the emotion of the story and connect with the lead character’s struggles.

Sound of Metal tells the story of a heavy metal drummer named Ruben (Ahmed) whose life is turned upside down by the loss of his hearing. This discovery was one that he definitely was not ready for while in the middle of a tour with his girlfriend and the lead singer of his band Lou (Cooke). The resulting onslaught of emotion was quite overwhelming for him as he saw his future with the band and Lou in jeopardy. Paired with Ruben’s gradual hearing loss, masterfully depicted through its use of sound (and the lack of it) along with subtitles (and sometimes the lack of them), it allows to better hone in on that emotion and shifting perspective over his evolution. He and the audience go on the same journey over the course of the film where Ruben tried to cope with his condition and find a new place in the world. Suffice it to say that that journey was not an easy one besides the obvious challenges. The biggest one was arguably that of acceptance. That internal conflict combined with his eventual acceptance and determination to overcome was very compelling to watch.

A big stop on Ruben’s journey was a facility ran by a deaf man named Joe (Raci) that offered him the opportunity to try and acclimate to his condition alongside other deaf individuals. Though not necessarily a rehab facility, it was where he could live with his deafness, not one to fix him. However, Ruben’s connection to his hearing felt similar to that of a drug addict. He suffered from addiction before meeting Lou though the allure of the life the two previously had was one that was hard to ignore despite his good intentions and all the work he put in towards his supposed transformation. In the end, Joe’s message may have taken a long time to sink in but all along, Sound of Metal was a story about a broken man looking to shut out the noise (pun intended) and find a sense of calm and peace. That moment was indeed a powerful one.

As mentioned, the best part of Sound of Metal was Ahmed’s extraordinary lead performance as Ruben. The film’s use of sound was merely one part of the equation but it would not have worked if not for him and his remarkably deep performance. It depended so much on him and his subtly and nuance pulled audiences in to Ruben’s emotional journey and pain from his condition, especially showcased during the film’s quieter moments. Finding the right balance, Ruben is a window into the world of the deaf, treating them with empathy and grace. Though this undoubtedly was Ahmed’s film, Cooke as Lou was nonetheless solid thanks to her great chemistry with Ahmed.

At the end of the day, Sound of Metal is more than just a heavy metal film but rather an empathetic character study and an experience unlike most films and one that should not be missed.

still courtesy of Amazon Studios


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