Like ‘A Quiet Place’ and ‘Baby Driver’ before it, ‘The Sound of Metal’ brings focus to characters and their stories of living a life with deafness instead of making deafness their primary trait. Yes, I know those are two films are nothing like this one, but I am focusing on the characters, not the synopsis.
In his directorial debut, Darius Marder has the audience see and hear what Rube, Riz Ahmed (“Venom“, “The Night Of (TV)”) goes through from the beginning and let’s us embrace this somewhat unpredictable journey he goes on.
Ruben is an ex-addict drummer is in the middle of a tour with his girlfriend/lead singer Lou, Olivia Cooke (“Me And Earl And The Dying Girl”, “Ready Player One“) when a sudden loss of hearing which causes him to venture back into his addiction mindset.
Ruben sees a specialist who advises that he has less than 30% hearing left in both ears and that he needs to find a way to save the small amount of hearing he has left. After ignoring the doctor, he has a panic attack at his next show which causes Lou to force him to get help.
He’s led to a deaf community run by Joe (Paul Raci), a paternal figure to the community who believes that the mind should be over everything else. It’s up to Ruben to embrace his new self as well as take control of what’s going through his mind.
Ahmed will be in the Awards conversation as this is the best work he’s done since his role in ‘The Night Of’ on HBO. I knew he had the talent to lead a film, but what he shows in this film was beyond my expectations.
With Ruben being an ex-addict, he relies on quick fixes and Ahmed plays with this personality trait throughout the film. Ahmed plays with control throughout and always knows when to give the scene to his partner. The film benefits greatly from him respecting the script, the scene and most importantly his co-stars.
Cooke and Raci are great in their roles, especially Raci who dominates the scenes with heartfelt speeches whenever we see him. His Joe cares deeply for this community and wants to make sure Ruben knows that they’re there for him. Cooke’s Lou is smaller compared to Joe and Ruben, but she demonstrates her ability to have the audience feel for her. She would do anything for Ruben, and thanks to Cooke, we believe that.
Marder does a wonderful job setting up Ruben’s story within the first 10 minutes of the film. We think we know who he is and what he’s about, and then his true persona lashes out when the trouble starts. Marder never leaves Ruben’s face when something happens. He wants us to see the turmoil and the processing, when other storytellers may skip past to the next blow-up.
With co-writing this and ‘Place Beyond the Pines,’ Marder demonstrates a great ability to develop the characters through expressions and silence. He seems to have the trust of his actors and I can’t wait to see what’s next.